As cities across the country have begun mandating face covers in public places, the demand for N95 and N99 masks have continued to increase. While some have made masks at home or have found legitimate companies selling masks, many have fallen victim to price gouging, counterfeit products, and online scammers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heavezt LLC, an online retailer advertising the sale of N95 and N99 masks, has become the focus of an investigation as Better Business Bureau continues to receive consumer reports against the company. Thus far, BBB has received 16 complaints, reviews and BBB Scam Tracker reports from consumers across the country. Of the 16 consumers, 14 of them told BBB they never received their orders after paying anywhere from $29.99 for one mask to nearly $500 for several. The two consumers who did receive the masks informed BBB that the quality was subpar and stated the item was not the N95 mask advertised on the site.
Additionally, complainants tell BBB they are unable to reach the retailer after not receiving refunds on their cancelled orders. Some consumers reported asking for a tracking number, only to receive fake numbers or told tracking numbers were unavailable.
Consumers paid the retailer primarily via Paypal and report being charged without receiving confirmation that their order had shipped. One San Antonio woman purchased 16 masks for $484.60 and said she was unable to reach the company by phone or email.
“This fake company was clearly set up to profit from the [coronavirus] pandemic and is stealing money and frauding people during a crisis,” a New York resident reported to BBB.
“It is ridiculous that [in] a time like this they are [scamming] people. This is serious,” another buyer complained.
BBB’s investigation found that the business’s website was created in January 2020, the same month the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported. Initially, the website listed an Austin address linked to a coworking space, however, this address was removed from the website after an update on April 2. The website now lists a return address in London with a domain registration listed in Morocco. To date, Heavezt has not responded to consumer complaints or BBB’s attempts to contact the company.
The BBB serving the Heart of Texas offers these tips to anyone searching for N95 and N99 masks online:
- Buy from reputable retailers. When shopping online, especially for high demand products like face masks, only purchase from businesses you know and trust. Review the company’s business profile at BBB.org to see what experiences other consumers have had with them.
- Confirm the business’s contact information. If you are unfamiliar with a seemingly legitimate company, check to see their contact information is valid. Incorrect email addresses and defunct customer service numbers can be indicators of an untrustworthy business.
- Pay carefully. Credit cards are generally the safest way to pay for an online purchase. If a problem occurs, you can contact your credit card company to dispute the charges. Look for the lock icon next to the website’s URL to confirm the site is secure before sharing your personal or credit card information.