If You Bought This Instead of a Mask, You Could Be in Trouble

This product is a scam and doesn't replace the need for a mask.

There have been a handful of popular mask substitutions throughout the pandemic, from neck gaiters to bandanas to face shields, but the worst alternative to a mask isn't actually a face covering at all. Experts are now warning that if you're carrying a "mask exemption" card or are looking to get your hands on one, you could be in trouble. Not only will refusing to wear a mask put you at increased risk of COVID, but these cards are a scam that could subject creators to a federal investigation. Keep reading to learn why you should steer clear of these fraudulent cards, and for more mask options to avoid, This One Type of Face Mask Is "Unacceptable," Warns the Mayo Clinic.

People are being scammed into purchasing fake "mask exemption" cards.

Man holding mask not wearing a mask

A scam from earlier in the pandemic seems to have come back around again. On Jan. 31, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) warned their Twitter followers to not "pay someone for a 'mask exemption' card or other fake credential. There is no such thing." Per NBC affiliate WYFF, the card claims that wearing a mask poses a mental and/or physical risk to cardholders.

The card cites the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but it carries no weight under U.S. law. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. said, "The public should be aware that these cards are fake and rest assured that we will investigate those who are knowingly creating or peddling these fraudulent cards to the unsuspecting public."

"People are losing money, they are also being asked to leave businesses in some cases, and so people really need to be aware of this going on," SCEMD's Brandon Lavorgna told WYFF. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The "mask exemption" card scam began over the summer.

Woman taking a card out of her wallet

This is not the first time this scam has gotten attention. Lavorgna noted that it first popped up over the summer. It's "an old scam that's being recirculated, and that's how scams tend to work," he said. In June 2020, the Department of Justice released a statement that the ADA, which the card cites, "does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations."

The Department of Justice emphasized that "cards and other documents bearing the Department of Justice seal and claiming that individuals are exempt from face mask requirements are fraudulent." And for more mask news, If You Have This Mask, Get a New One Now, Experts Say.

You should be on the lookout for these fraudulent cards.

Card in a wallet

WYFF instructs anyone who sees the "mask exemption" cards to report them to law enforcement. A Boston NBC affiliate also warned business owners not to fall for the scam. "The cards are really completely bogus," Kathy Gips with the New England Americans with Disabilities Act told NBC. "I think people are really abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act by pretending to have a disability." And for more essential mask guidance, If You Wear Your Mask Like This, You're Not Getting "Maximal Protection."

There are only four groups of people who shouldn't wear masks.

Woman wearing a mask baby with no mask

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines the only four groups of people who should not wear a mask. According to the CDC, children under the age of two; anyone who has significant trouble breathing; anyone who's unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove a mask without assistance; and those who have sensory, cognitive, or behavioral issues that could result in them feeling distressed when wearing a face covering should not wear a mask. And for more mask guidelines, The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.

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