Coronavirus News: Watch out for these red flags when buying PPE online

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Your social media feeds and online ads may feature PPE or Personal Protective Equipment for sale, but 7 On Your Side warns some websites may take your money and not deliver.

From virus-blocking face masks to at-home test kits, you can't swipe up without seeing a COVID ad crashing your feed.

Google and Facebook say misleading coronavirus ad claims were banned globally while Amazon and eBay also claim to have cracked down on COVID-19 products for price gouging.

However, ads still slip onto the sites says Leo Friedman, CEO of online marketing site iPromo.

"The really sad part is the consumer. How can a consumer tell the difference? You don't at the end of the day, you don't," Friedman said.

One Chicago-based website, which has been selling PPE equipment for 20 years, was recently hijacked by someone in California. After being contacted by Friedman, the bad actor took the site down.

"I'm like who are these guys?" he said. "They copied it so perfectly, our photos, our graphics, our language that they didn't erase some of the links, that's why we were some getting some of the traffic."

The retailer says there were around 100 mask manufacturers in China before the pandemic, and suddenly there are more than 4,000 companies peddling products.

"They are not worried about quality, a mask is not just a mask," said Friedman

Three steps to take before you make a PPE purchase:

1) Research and read reviews of the product
2) Check for FDA approval and lab test results
3) Check registration, name and date -- you can see when the site went live. Type the company name into a sites like "Who is" and look for a solid business track record

Three quick at-home tests for mask quality:

1) The water test: Pour water in your mask, none of it should leak through a good-quality mask
2) The flame test: Light a flame. Try to blow it out through the mask -- it should remain lit.
3) The banana test: Peel a banana and take a sniff. You should barely detect the fruit, you shouldn't be be able to smell the banana strongly because the scent shouldn't freely flow through the fibers of a good mask.

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