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How to avoid buying a counterfeit mask

A younger woman holding a credit card points to a laptop held by an older woman.

Jan. 31, 2022—Are you thinking of swapping your cloth mask for a KN95 or N95 mask? These masks can offer you greater protection—though any mask is better than none.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you should wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear each time it's needed. Learn more about different types of masks.

Use caution when shopping online

You can buy masks online. But keep in mind: Some you find might not be approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). That's especially true when it comes to unfamiliar websites. For example, what if you ordered an N95 but wound up getting a regular cloth mask? Here are a few basic ways you can protect yourself when shopping online:

Look for red flag words. Words like "legitimate" or "genuine" could mean a fraudulent seller is trying hard to convince you otherwise.

Read reviews. What are other people saying about their buying experience? You can search the name of the company selling the mask along with terms like "reviews" and "scam." Be sure to look at more than one review.

Look for big price swings. Is the mask being sold at a price that's too good to be true? If so, it could be a scam.

Watch for typos and other errors. A website riddled with errors is one you may not want to trust.

Pay with a credit card. You may have greater consumer protections than if you pay by debit card.

Recognize the real thing

One way to tell if a mask is NIOSH-approved? Look for the NIOSH logo. Take a look at this infographic to see what an approved N95 looks like.

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