Escrow.com sent me a research report (.pdf) the company compiled discussing a growing problem involving businesses purportedly selling masks and other supplies to people concerned about the coronavirus outbreak. Various law enforcement agencies and legal teams have also been working to reduce or eliminate these types of scams. For instance, the New York Attorney General sent a letter to GoDaddy to determine how the largest domain registrar in the world is working to protect people from being scammed.
Here’s what the Escrow.com report focuses on:
“The Coronavirus pandemic has given rise to a cottage industry of scam artists looking to prey on people’s fears. An investigation by Escrow.com has found a surge of unscrupulous websites aimed at selling N95 respirator masks in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Fake websites with no history are being put online, seemingly selling bulk quantities of Coronavirus masks. Without any legitimate business history or record to speak of, they are offering low prices on orders for millions of masks.”
Over the years when various websites have popped up to sell famous name brand products, I have advised people to do a Whois search to see when the domain name was created. For instance, about ten years ago, a friend of mine asked me a website that was allegedly selling Christian Louboutin shoes. The domain name had been registered to a third party a couple of weeks prior to her emailing me, so I was pretty certain the website was some sort of scam or it was selling counterfeit shoes.
Beyond the coronavirus scheming, people can use Whois records to get an idea of a website’s legitimacy. Several weeks ago, I saw a Google advertisement selling some clothes that looked appealing to me. I had my shopping cart full of clothes to buy, but something seemed off to me. When I saw the domain name was registered a short time before, I opted against purchasing. The other day, I saw a similar Google ad and did a search of the company name to see reviews. Not surprisingly, there were a whole bunch of reviews on TrustPilot complaining about unfulfilled orders, late orders, and unacceptable quality. Had I not done a Whois search, I probably would have been scammed.
Buying clothing or other non-essential products is one issue, but purchasing medical and healthcare supplies is on a totally different level.