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Scammy PPE sellers exploit COVID-19 fears

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Last month, the FTC filed its first case against an online seller that failed to ship next-day personal protective equipment (PPE) as promised. Today, we have an update: the FTC is filing three more cases as part of a continuing effort to address “online shopping” fraud that seeks to exploit high demand for PPE and other COVID-related products.

The FTC alleges that QYK Brands, LLC, Zaappaaz/wrist-band.com, and American Screening, LLC are taking advantage of consumers’ fear of COVID-19 by advertising the availability and quick delivery of hand sanitizer and PPE, while knowing they can’t meet those promises.

By law, sellers are supposed to ship your order within the time stated in their ads, or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time. If a seller can’t ship within the promised time, it has to give you a revised shipping date, with the chance to either cancel your order for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.

According to the FTC’s complaints, the three companies fail to: deliver on time (if at all), notify customers of delayed shipments, offer order cancellations and refunds, and honor refund requests. In many cases, when the equipment finally arrives, it’s the wrong size or is defective. The companies also often substitute products without customers’ permission.

Dr. J’s Natural and its spokesperson Dr. J (a company related to QYK) also boldly promote a supplement, specifically targeting the Vietnamese speaking population in Southern California, claiming the product can prevent and treat COVID-19 by boosting the immune system. The company also claims the supplement is clinically tested and FDA-approved to treat COVID-19. In truth, says the FTC, the company has no proof to back up its claims.

Before you order from an unfamiliar online store, consider these tips to help avoid a scam:

  • Check out the company or product by typing its name in a search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what other people say about it.
  • Look at the terms of the sale. Calculate the total purchase price, including taxes, shipping, and handling. If you have to return the item, can you get a refund? Who pays for return shipping? Is there a restocking fee?
  • Pay by credit card. That gives you protections under federal law. If a business charged your account too soon, and didn’t deliver the merchandise on time, you can dispute the billing error and report it to your credit card company.

If you suspect a scam, let us know about it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and our law enforcement partners stop scammers.

To learn more about avoiding Coronavirus-related scams, visit ftc.gov/coronavirus, and sign up for our consumer alerts.

To read a version of this blog post in Vietnamese, click here.

Để đọc phiên bản tiếng Việt của bài đăng trên blog này, xin bấm vào đây.

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