Buyers beware! Scammers are taking advantage of PPE and glove shortages, causing millions of dollars in losses for businesses and individuals.

With virtually all disposable gloves manufactured overseas, it’s much more difficult to vet factories and brokers claiming to represent those factories. And it’s easy enough to build a website or show false certificates to create the appearance of legitimacy.

Unfortunately, unsuspecting buyers are taking the bait and ending up with counterfeit or faulty face masks, gloves, gowns and shoe covers – if they get product at all.

Some very smart business people have been burned. For example, a distributor we know prepaid for a container of nitrile gloves from a “broker” who promised immediate shipment. After repeated attempts to nail down a delivery date, the broker disappeared.

The FBI has been active, in one case stopping a scam just before the customer was going to wire $4 million dollars for a PPE shipment. It turns out that the stacks of labeled cases in a picture used to lure the customer were empty.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) have resulted in the shutdown of thousands of fraudulent websites, 871 COVID-19 related seizures of fraudulent or prohibited goods and nearly $18 million dollars in disrupted transactions and recovered funds.

Sadly, many criminals will never be caught and the tally of victims – and lost dollars – will continue to rise.

Here are some simple tips to protect yourself from fraudulent sellers:

  1. Only work with experienced and reputable glove importers. You can’t replace years of experience and the factory relationships that established glove suppliers possess.
  2. Be skeptical of a company or person promising immediate shipment from overseas manufacturers. Factory lead times today are 180 days or longer.
  3. Be leery of offers from unprofessional email addresses, e.g. “Bob@aol.com.” (No offense to any Bobs reading this. Or those still using AOL.)
  4. Avoid companies or individuals that do not give an address. If an address is given, do a search and see if it’s a legitimate location, or just someone’s home.
  5. Even legitimate looking websites, emails and locations may be fronts for fraudulent activity. When in doubt, refer back to tip #1.

The disruption in gloves supplies coupled with increasing prices is exactly the type of the environment that attracts fraudsters. While there are legitimate sellers, it’s critical to do your homework and assess the risk.