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About 2 million fake N95 masks found in Washington state, pulled from shelves

About 2 million fake 3M masks have been pulled from shelves across Washington state.

About 2 million counterfeit 3M N95 masks being investigated by Homeland Security were distributed to approximately 40 hospitals in Washington state.

All of those masks have been pulled off the shelves, according to Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) President and CEO Cassie Sauer. They had "mostly not been used," she said.

The hospital association is still in conversations with 3M and Homeland Security as the investigation into the counterfeit masks continue. 

The masks, according to Sauer, are being tested now. So far, they appear to be good, though official results are pending. It is likely Homeland Security will confiscate the masks regardless of whether or not they are effective.

The masks were about $4 each. WSHA spent $1.4 million for around 300,000 masks. Other hospitals around the state accounted for an additional $6.6 million spent for roughly 1.9 million masks.

Federal agents seized more than 10 million counterfeit N95 masks in the past few weeks. One of the most recent seizures occurred Feb. 16 when federal agents intercepted hundreds of thousands of the counterfeit 3M masks in an East Coast warehouse that were going to be distributed. 

Investigators have notified about 6,000 people in at least 12 states who may have unknowingly purchased knockoffs.

The masks do not come through 3M's regular distributors, they come from outside the normal supply chain, officials said. But hospitals and medical groups have increasingly gone around normal purchasing routines during mask shortages in the global pandemic, officials said. They said the scams are taking advantage of the panic over masks.

Fraud remains a major problem as scammers seek to exploit hospitals and desperate Americans during the pandemic. Federal investigators say they have seen an increase in phony websites purporting to sell vaccines as well as fake medicine produced overseas and scams involving personal protective equipment. The schemes deliver phony products, unlike earlier in the pandemic when fraudsters focused more on fleecing customers.

The following lot codes were believed to be affected by the counterfeits:

Model 1860: B19029, B19206, B19240, B19130, B19133, B19155, B19161, B19206, B19314, B20010, B20013, B20016, B20018, B20020, B20021, B20022, B20025, B20060, B20119, B20245, R20025, R20102, R20144, R20150, R20294

Model 1860S: B20522, B20659, B20670, R20522