We have seen so many obviously dangerous decisions and communications recently, on the topic of buying face masks from China, that we thought it might be helpful to show a few ‘examples of what to avoid’.


The dangers of buying protective masks from China

Due to the coronavirus pandemic engulfing the world we’re seeing a huge number of ‘mask vendors’ touting their wares on LinkedIn, WeChat, and other social media channels. There are also endless victims buyers out there screaming for stock as they try to import them into their countries from China, most of whom seem to be suffering from a shortage of face masks due in part to, until recently, China diverting most of the global mask supply internally to support their own handling of the virus outbreak.

(Please note, unfortunately, we cannot advise you about the safety of face masks that you purchase as a regular consumer. We deal with businesses only. So we will not be able to respond to messages and calls about this.)

Here are a few screenshots from Linkedin alone illustrating the risks involved in jumping into the Wild West face mask market unprepared, with our comments below:


Example 1

face mask sales pitch linkedin

This one has the typical tone of experienced scammers. It wants to deal with people who self-select as ready to place a big order FAST (i.e. without due diligence).

A few red flags:

  • What is a “source”? Stock that was imported from China? Why not say how many pieces are on stock, SKU by SKU, to make it look more real?
  • Is the “source” a manufacturer? That’s what most readers would assume. But wouldn’t domestic manufacturers already be fully booked, supplying hospitals and other health care providers in priority?
  • If the source is “extremely reputable”, why do they need an intermediary to sell their products? And why not name it?
  • So, the source is in the US, and they supply KN95, a Chinese standard? A bit weird.


Example 2

possible face mask from china scam

Unfortunately, these days, (nearly) no manufacturer extends credit to their new customers. And I understand it. It’s one-off transactions. And there are many buyers waiting in line…

A couple of red flags:

  • 1.5 million masks in stock? Are you kidding? With the estimate of 1 mask per second per line, and lines making good products 20 hours a day, that’s 1 line churning out products for 21 working days. In the current market, most manufacturers have already pre-sold their production of the next 2 weeks (and often more)…
  • 3.38 USD per piece? That’s way above the market price.
  • Total lack of specificity: what type of masks, any certifications, etc.


Example 3

naive face mask request

This buyer makes several mistakes:

  • They show they are desperately in a hurry, which always attracts scam artists.
  • They mention no supplier approval process. It seems anybody can be OK.
  • They seem to mention “N95” as the general category of mask, and are not specific.


Example 4

buyer seeking face masks and ppe

Same issues as the example above. This will attract scam artists.


Example 5

buyer who bought fake face masks

Well… that’s an example of what happens when a buyer made mistakes and ordered from the wrong people! At least he can laugh about the situation, but if these found their way into the order of, say, a hospital, this wouldn’t be so funny.


The above examples serve as a warning to would-be mask importers.

A lot of Chinese ‘suppliers’ aren’t who they say they are – they may be resellers who have never seen their own supplier’s factory. With even legitimate mask manufacturers in China dubbing their production lines ‘money printers,’ can you be sure that you’re not being taken for a ride?

Financial risk is only a part of it. There’s also a proven risk of ‘fake’ face masks from China being supplied, and not just a few, hundreds of thousands. Do you want to take the risk of your friends, family, or others’ lives into your hands?

If you really must buy face masks in this treacherous market, you really need to be:

When it comes to PPE (personal protective equipment) like face masks, ‘buying blind’ just has too much risk not to perform the above security measures.

For even more good advice, try these blog posts:

If all else fails, tips from Mark Graban on making and wearing a home-made mask:

(Please note, unfortunately, we cannot advise you about the safety of face masks that you purchase as a regular consumer. We deal with businesses only. So we will not be able to respond to messages and calls about this.)

Need help with inspections on face masks or perhaps auditing your potential suppliers? We're here to help and are doing this actively around China right now for other clients.
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