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As businesses and cities continue to discuss making face masks mandatory, fake cards are showing up online that claim to exempt people from covering their faces. The cards are yet another unfortunate reminder that you shouldn’t believe everything you see, no matter how legitimate it looks.

The Better Business Bureau is joining the United States Department of Justice in alerting both businesses and consumers about the growing number of fraudulent face mask exemption cards making their way into the marketplace. Additionally, the DOJ has been made aware of social media posts and flyers circulating online that use false information to promote the fake cards.

The card references the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and emphasizes peoples’ right to refuse to wear a face mask due to health concerns, despite that it will help curb the spread of COVID-19. The group behind the fake exemption card calls themselves the Freedom to Breathe Agency. Their card incorporates an eagle-themed logo and states that holders are protected from any mandates requiring citizens to wear face masks. Exact text featured on the card – misspellings included – reads, “Wearing a face mask poses a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you.”

The information on the card also alleges the Americans with Disabilities Act forbids asking about the cardholder’s health condition and threatens to levy fines of at least $75,000 if any questions are asked.

All of this is misinformation. The cards are phony, the Freedom to Breathe Agency cannot claim authority for themselves for anyone else to get out of wearing a mask, and no exorbitant fines will come of asking about or denying the card.

Health experts and the DOJ are also urging the public not to believe the card’s claim that wearing a mask will incur mental or physical risk.

The Department of Justice and the Americans With Disabilities Act states they are not the distributors of these cards and they do not endorse the information shared by the Freedom to Breathe Agency. Lenka Koloma, the group’s founder, advertised the cards on her Facebook page and sold them on a Shopify site, which is no longer available.

The BBB suggests that when such information is presented with misspellings or logos look a little different than an agency’s normal branding, both should be considered red-flags and raise suspicion about the content’s validity.

Before taking any action or purchasing an item, verify that everything is legitimate. Go to the actual website of the government agency or company promoting the information to see what’s real. 

For more information on this topic and other types of fraud, you can visit trust-bbb.org.

(Danielle Kane is the Oregon State Directfor for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.)

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