For hospitals, healthcare companies, and nursing homes, finding and obtaining PPE products has proven to get harder as we get deeper into the pandemic. We are now months into COVID-19, and the PPE situation has gotten worse in terms of availability. 

Why? Our country is still struggling with supply-chain deficiencies. Part of the problem lies with the power given to the Strategic National Stockpile agency by the federal government.

But regardless of the reason, the reality is that well-meaning healthcare companies and municipalities are turning to any vendor who says they can supply PPE, but some are considered risky or even "black market." Vendors are entering the marketplace every day, and some are wreaking havoc on healthcare companies, hospitals, and municipalities alike. 

PPE Vendor Scams include:

  • False documentation to make the PPE look like it meets a standard it doesn't.
  • Counterfeit certification marks.
  • Counterfeit manufacturer names, logos, and model numbers.
  • Swapping out products after customers have paid.

With little to no regulation out there, the PPE market is being referred to as the "wild wild west" by 60 Minutes. It’s not easy to determine whether or not a vendor deserves your trust and credibility, but there are questions you can ask and warning signs to watch out for.

As a partner to hundreds of healthcare companies, Ironmark has been sourcing PPE products since the beginning of COVID-19 using relationships with suppliers we've had for decades. In doing so, we’ve learned what is happening out there and what red flags to look out for. We’ve compiled this list of questions and warning signs. 


PPE product samples

How do you know the equipment you ordered (masks, shields, gowns, etc.) is the equipment you’ll receive? As it turns out, some companies swap the products for cheaper or more available products after you’ve already paid. Ask for product samples. Any vendor should be able to send you a sample of the mask, face shield, gown, or other protective equipment before you decide to purchase. This way, you’ll be able to touch and see the products, and compare them to the products you receive with the appropriate labels.

product certifications and testing

Ask which organization issued the certification for the vendor's PPE materials. Check out these government resources, which allow you to see which manufacturers are approved and which are not. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides a testing, approval, and certification program assuring that respirators used in the workplace meet their standards. NIOSH has maintained a searchable, online version of the Certified Equipment List.

PPE vendor email, address, and website

If you receive an unsolicited email from a PPE vendor, check out their email address. Does the email domain match their company name and website domain? Or are they contacting you about PPE using a gmail, yahoo, or other free mail address? If so, they might be a scammer. Also, look at the body of the email. Are they pressuring you to buy masks or gowns now without sampling the product? Make sure they have a decent website. Have they been in business for a long time? You can check how long the website has been around using this tool, or check out who owns the domain using this tool. If the website launched in the past few months, chances are this is not a reputable PPE supply company and you should steer clear.

PPE Fulfillment track record

Has the vendor had to cancel orders in the past few months? Can they give you references from other healthcare companies for whom they have successfully fulfilled large orders of PPE? Ask what their success rate is regarding receiving the product on time and on budget. All these questions are necessary to determine whether or not you’re working with a trustworthy vendor.

The past year has felt like a century, and a big part of that pertains to PPE supply. Here at Ironmark, we've seen everything while working with some of the largest healthcare institutions in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia area. We have helped hospitals that have overpaid, as well as nursing homes for whom major orders were canceled. We’ve helped clients who have been taken advantage of due to a dire need of PPE materials and we can help you as well. 

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Your PPE Products Solution

From supply chain shortage to dealing with international government trade agencies, we’ve been through it all and we can help. If you’re struggling to find the PPE products you and your employees desperately need, feel free to talk to our experts. Though we've had major success with hospitals and healthcare companies - we can take that success to any business - whether you run a hair dresser or a retail chain. We all need PPE supplies and we have the relationships with suppliers you can trust.

Check out our current selection of PPE materials - we'd be happy to help!

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Written by Lynne Kingsley

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