Counterfeiters have flooded the market for N95 and KN95 masks. Here’s how to buy real ones.

The gold standard in masks has been the N95, with its extra-tight fit. There’s also the KN95 from China, which also offers high filtration but is somewhat looser fitting.

But a year into the pandemic, buying a legitimate heavy-duty medical mask online remains downright maddening.

Counterfeiters have flooded the market with fake N95s and KN95s, even on trusted sites like Amazon.

Brian X. Chen recently spent hours comparing masks online and learned about how to spot fraudulent mask listings and how to sidestep fake reviews.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has charts of N95 and KN95 masks that the agency has tested, including the make, model number and filtration efficiency. Learn about the trade-offs between the two types of masks.

  • Beware of Amazon. Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, a company that offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online, said a third-party seller most likely took control of the product listing and sold fakes to make a quick buck. “It’s a bit of a Wild West,” he said. “You think it’s real and suddenly you get sick.”

  • Instead, order from an authorized source that shows proof of authenticity — some manufacturers list steps to verify that a mask is real. You can also sometimes order directly from the manufacturer itself, but often you have to buy a large quantity to reduce the cost.

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