LOS ANGELES - FOX 11 tracked down and confronted a man our investigative team found that has been selling fake N95 masks to unsuspecting customers in downtown Los Angeles for $12 each, about four times the current market value of legitimate N95 masks.
FOX 11 purchased some of the masks while undercover, and brought them to an expert who identified them as counterfeit within a matter of seconds. The man has a kiosk set up on the sidewalk near 7th and Figueroa in front of a retail store complex.
For several days, FOX 11’s investigative team watched the man sell what he claims are highly sought after, legitimate N95 masks for $12 each or two for $20.The boxes containing the masks were labeled as N95 respirators, and it said the product was made in China.
A FOX 11 undercover cameraman made a purchase, and asked the man about the product. "This is the safest thing, right?" he asked.
“If you want to talk from a medical perspective, yes, because it’s FDA approved and it’s a medical mask,” the man replied. But the masks label is taped on to the outside packaging, and despite claiming to be FDA approved, the listing number doesn’t match when you run it with FDA records.
FOX 11 has confirmed the number is bogus. A closer look at the masks themselves reveals no markings, no labeling, and no manufacturing information, which the CDC says are all things legitimate N95s must-have.
“This is a knockoff at best, this is not an N95 mask,” said Nick Vyas, the Executive Director for USC’s Center for Global Supply Chain Management. Vyas has experience with legitimate N95 masks, and we brought the one we purchased to him, which he identified as a fake within a matter of seconds.
“The CDC has clearly identified the guidelines on how to identify N95 masks, this one does not match any of those protocols,” Vyas said. “This one has no markings, no indications, no manufacturer, so it’s a fake N95 being sold on the street, unfortunately.
When FOX 11 returned to downtown LA to confront the man, he refused to answer any questions, and a man he was speaking with intervened and became upset about FOX 11’s presence. FOX 11 noticed several other street vendors nearby who were selling from the exact same fake N95 boxes.
These counterfeits can be dangerous if a nurse, or an at-risk senior purchases one and uses it, thinking they’re protected when in reality, they’re not.“I think [the scammers] are taking advantage of the desperation that exists in our society, and they’re doing it for the wrong reasons, cause you’re not just making money, you’re putting somebody in harm's way,” Vyas said.