Too Good To Be True? How To Spot a Possible Supplier Scam During The COVID-19 Crisis

Tim Franke

By Tim Franke, VP, Category Management and Sourcing, Intalere

You may have already seen it – a new supplier reaching out with great urgency to offer a limited supply of product. Is this new company legitimate? Is the product good? How can you know if they are a trustworthy source?

As Coronavirus continues to spread, healthcare systems are overwhelmed, understaffed and faced with a number of urgent decisions – the perfect storm for scammers to possibly take advantage. 

Some current product-related scams we have seen/heard about include:

  • Access to alternative product offerings – Masks, sanitizers, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) items currently in high demand.
  • Access to unrealistically large quantities of product.
  • Access to products at unreasonably low or high prices.

How to Stay Savvy Under Stress

The combination of fatigue, uncertainty and pressure to make quick decisions can make it difficult to spot a scam. Here are some tips to help you navigate through these difficult decisions:

  • Reach out to the supplier directly and ask specific questions.
    • Where is the product currently?
    • What are the storage conditions?
    • What is the expiration date of the product?
    • Can a picture of the inventory be provided?
    • Where are these products being manufactured?
    • How did they acquire the products?

Answers to these questions will better equip you to make an informed decision.  And, as you press for more specific information, many scammers won’t even take the time to respond. 

  • Check the CDC website to see if the supplier’s products are listed as approved.  For example, this web page provides a table of NIOSH-approved N95 respirators, listed alphabetically by manufacturer.
  • Purchase only from manufacturers, authorized distributors or dealers, which will increase the likelihood that you will receive authentic products. If you need help identifying authorized distributors and dealers in your area, manufacturers should have this information or a help center on their website.
  • Look on the Better Business Bureau’s website to verify that the business is in good standing. If you suspect a business or offer sounds like an illegal scheme or fraud, you can report it to the BBB Scam Tracker for further investigation.
  • Consult with other healthcare organizations. You may even want to ask the supplier for customer recommendations—and then follow-up with those customers for their review. If no one has heard of them, or if a supplier is hesitant to share a customer recommendation, these may be red flags.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut. If the offer seems unrealistic or the pricing seems off, err on the side of caution and go with suppliers that you have previously vetted and trust.

Beware of Cyber Attacks

In addition to product-related schemes, stay alert for malicious cyber campaigns. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is warning that criminals are looking to exploit the spread of coronavirus to conduct cyberattacks and hacking campaigns. 

  • Beware of “look-a-like” internet sites and email domains for ordering products. Many solicitations center around asking you to process fake orders or invoices.
  • Take time to pause and question. Verify the origin of supply chain communications. If in doubt, forward questionable communications to your IT department to review.
  • Be vigilant regarding emails from external sources, especially those containing suspicious links, keeping in mind that criminals are trying to use this emergency situation to their advantage.

We Can Help

Intalere provides a number of resources that can assist in the areas of supply chain and cybersecurity as well as many other areas of your operations. Please reach out to us to see how we can help. Contact Customer Service at  877-711-5600 or customerservice@intalere.com or your Intalere representative.

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