Fake COVID-19 masks? U.S. Customs seized nearly 13 million of them.

And that's just what the agency reported through September of 2020.


Fake sneakers and counterfeit designer are common in a space where hype means everything — but other times, faux goods can prove deadly. While the pandemic kept us at home this past year, U.S. Customs agents seized nearly 13 million counterfeit face masks, according to a report from the facility, which was first covered by The Wall Street Journal. The face coverings were falsely labeled as having been made by major producers such as 3M Co. or luxury brands.

You must be thinking: How could masks possibly be counterfeit? As seen with most popular streetwear drops, counterfeit producers will make anything as long as there’s demand — aka a profit to be made. And with health professionals now encouraging double masking, people are looking to own more protective equipment. Instead of just risking copyright infringement, however, these producers are now risking lives too.

Mock masks — Among Customs’ recent seizures were 21 shipping boxes of masks labeled as 3M Mask Model 1860, seized in Cincinnati in December. Determined to be counterfeit by Customs officials, the huge shipment would have had a retail value of $65,520 had the masks been genuine.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Out of the nearly 13 million masks seized, 51 percent of the faux face coverings were found in China, according to Customs’ report. The agency’s 10,000 officers carried them out at more than 300 points of entry in the country.

In cases where counterfeit items are seized, Customs destroys the fraudulent product and notifies the importer via a broker. Individuals expecting the delivery may be notified by their e-commerce companies that their items are no longer available.

A false step — Alongside the falsely labeled masks, U.S. Customs agents seized 177,000 test kits prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration and 38,000 chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine tablets that were barred by the FDA, their report said. Agents also found about 37,000 false vaccines, claiming to prevent Covid-19 infection with substances prohibited by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sebastian Condrea/Moment/Getty Images

These counterfeit goods want to give people a sense of security, but their intentions are just as fake as the product. Fraudulent PPE only adds to the worsening pandemic, and to the argument that masks “don’t work.” While just as physically harmful to the wearer, these counterfeit items also harm our advancement.

U.S. Customs seems to have it together, so your odds of buying a fake mask are slim. Just in case though, you might want to browse StockX — at those prices, there’s no way anything isn’t authentic.