You've heard the expression look before you leap. The same goes with buying items on the internet. Research before you purchase. In the midst of the world's current situation regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19, I've seen several websites pop up by companies selling masks. I was first made aware of these sites via an ad in my Facebook feed. Masks are clearly a hot item right now and there are businesses out there that are looking to cash in on this demand. When ordering, we must be careful not to get scammed when buying masks during the pandemic. I rarely click ads in Facebook, but I thought I'd click in the interest of research to keep people from getting scammed when buying masks during the pandemic. Masks are in short supply.
How do these sites have masks in stock?
Do their masks live up to CDC recommended standards for non healthcare worker?
Who owns these businesses?
What is their reputation?
Can I trust them with my credit card information?
You've most likely heard of Amazon.com. IMO, they set the standard in online retail. They're usually my go to when looking for a specific product that I can't find locally, or if I'm buying something for a friend and would rather Amazon handle the shipping and me not have to get out to ship the item off. Amazon has been around for a very long time and has a pretty positive reputation in the online world. According to Alexa, they're the 14th most popular site in the world. Looking back through my order history, I placed my first order with Amazon back in August of 2007. This year will be mine and Amazon's 13th anniversary. : ) According to Hallmark, the 13th anniversary gift is lace. I wonder how Jeff Bezos would feel if I sent him a little something. I digress.
Are you buying masks that are approved?
Among the panic buying, so many suppliers have run out of approved masks, that hospitals are now having trouble replenishing supplies. Some suppliers are limiting order amounts based on past use vs projected needs.
Knowing that supplies for approved masks are in short supply raises a big question. How do these sites have approved masks in stock? Researching their sites gave absolute zero evidence that these masks were anything more than a dust mask. Fancy graphs and images showed them to be better than N95 masks, but other than the fancy visual, they gave zero detail as to the types of replaceable filters used, how long the filters last, or where to get replacement filters. These masks look very nice and come in a variety of colors and patterns that you could have one for every day of the week. They also seemed reasonably priced at around $20 each for the type of mask I'm referring to.
Are these companies legit?
Researching further, I looked up the domains at domaintools.com. DomainTools.com showed the domains both registered within the last 30 days. Are these new companies or new extensions of existing companies? I did manage to find Facebook pages for each company. Both pages had less than 1,000 likes. One site had well over 500 reviews. Almost all were 5 stars. Being in the online space, it's difficult to get users to give feedback. Users will more than likely only reach out to you when something is wrong, vs. telling you how great the product/service is. I skimmed the reviews and one 5 star review raved about the product and even gave order dates and the date the item was received. The order date predates the registration of the domain. This means either the reviewer provided the wrong date, or the review is made up. If the review is made up, how many other reviews are made up?
Both sites did have SSL (https) meaning they were secure. That offers some trust to users.
I scanned their About Us and Contact Us pages as well as their social media pages. I found no personal names. The only thing I could find were mailing addresses. Looking up the mailing addresses in a few map apps showed the addresses were in empty lots.
I searched for the company names in several search engines. No results were returned meaning they haven't been indexed by search engines yet probably because the sites are new to the internet.
After reviewing the above findings, I decided not to place an order as I have not gained any trust from these sites. They could be completely legitimate businesses, but I'll wait a bit before placing an order.