Did People Receive Unsolicited Masks from China?


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In September 2021, a viral message was recirculated on Facebook about a person in Louisa, Virginia, who had received a package of unsolicited masks from China. That post, which was originally shared in August 2020, claimed that the masks had been confiscated by the police, and that they had been tainted with some sort of chemical irritant:

This post is from August 2020. As of this writing in September 2021, it doesn’t appear that there are any current reports of unsolicited masks arriving from China. Furthermore, this posts claim about a “chemical irritant” are unverified. There were a number of other similar reports in the summer of 2020, but when officials looked into these reports, they did not find that they posed any sort of physical threat. 

The above-displayed post was one of several reports received in the summer of 2020 about unsolicited masks arriving from China. WISTV, a local TV station in South Carolina, reported at the time:

“A Columbia woman reached out to WIS to spread the word after getting a package from China in the mail that she didn’t order. Inside the package were ‘KN95’ face masks.”

Similar stories were also reported in Ohio, Florida and Texas. It should also be noted that these reports came on the heels of another story about suspicious mail packages. You can read more about the unsolicited seeds that were mailed from China in the summer of 2020 here

These masks were likely sent out as part of a “brushing scam.” These scams, generally speaking, involve a business sending out unsolicited packages in order to artificially increase their customer ratings. While these products may not pose a physical threat to the recipients, it may indicate that a person’s credit cards, online passwords, or other online accounts have been compromised.

The Federal Trade Commission writes:

You might have read about the “brushing” scam. In this one, somebody sends you stuff, unordered, because it lets them give themselves a great review in your name. Annoying, but whatever, right? Nope. More than annoying. It could mean that the scammers have created an account in your name, or taken over your account, on online retail sites. Or even created new accounts (maybe lots of them) in other names tied to your address. Letting them post lots of seemingly-real reviews. So keep an eye on your online shopping accounts. If you spot activity that isn’t yours, report it to the site right away, and think about changing your password for that site.

It should also be noted that if you receive an unsolicited package, you are under no obligation to keep, use, or return the product. When reports of these unsolicited masks originally circulated in August 2020, the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office recommended that people simply discard of the packages:

In short, people truly did receive unsolicited masks from China. These reports came from August 2020, not September 2021 (when they were reshared), and these masks were likely part of a brushing scam. 


Sources:

“Creepy: Woman Receives Unordered Face Mask from China.” WCPO, 22 July 2020, https://www.wcpo.com/money/consumer/dont-waste-your-money/creepy-woman-receives-unordered-face-mask-from-china.

“—.” WCPO, 22 July 2020, https://www.wcpo.com/money/consumer/dont-waste-your-money/creepy-woman-receives-unordered-face-mask-from-china.

“Getting Unordered Seeds and Stuff in the Mail?” Consumer Information, 7 Aug. 2020, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/08/getting-unordered-seeds-and-stuff-mail.

Jess. “Have You Received a Mask in the Mail You Didn’t Order?” 97.7/97.3 The Wolf, https://hudsonvalleycountry.com/have-you-received-a-mask-in-the-mail-you-didnt-order/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2021.

Mallory, Laurel. “Columbia Woman Warns Public after She Got Face Masks from China She Didn’t Order.” Https://Www.Wistv.Com, https://www.wistv.com/2020/08/18/columbia-woman-warns-public-after-she-got-face-masks-china-she-didnt-order/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2021.

—. “Columbia Woman Warns Public after She Got Face Masks from China She Didn’t Order.” Https://Www.Wistv.Com, https://www.wistv.com/2020/08/18/columbia-woman-warns-public-after-she-got-face-masks-china-she-didnt-order/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2021.

“Mystery Mask? Americans Receiving Mysterious Packages from China.” Khou.Com, 6 Aug. 2020, https://www.khou.com/article/money/a-single-face-mask-americans-receiving-mysterious-packages-from-chinese-online-retailers/285-6c94db3f-fa01-41c9-87c0-7b9868ab11ef.

“Mystery Masks: Unsolicited Face Masks from China Arriving in Tampa Bay Mailboxes.” WFLA, 10 Aug. 2020, https://www.wfla.com/8-on-your-side/better-call-behnken/mystery-masks-unsolicited-face-masks-from-china-arriving-in-tampa-bay-mailboxes/.

“—.” WFLA, 10 Aug. 2020, https://www.wfla.com/8-on-your-side/better-call-behnken/mystery-masks-unsolicited-face-masks-from-china-arriving-in-tampa-bay-mailboxes/.

People Are Receiving Unsolicited Face Masks in the Mail From China. 12 Aug. 2020, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/627405/people-receiving-face-masks-from-china-in-mail.

Wilson, Diane. “Face Masks Showing up in Mail Are Part of Latest Scam.” ABC7 New York, 3 Feb. 2021, https://abc7ny.com/10286086/.





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