FTC smacks down makers of bogus ‘invisible mask’ against COVID-19

If the existence of a cheap, easy-to-use “Invisible Mask” device that generates a three-foot radius of protection against COVID-19 sounds too good to be true—well, that’s because it is. And the Federal Trade Commission is making sure nobody will continue to profit from this ruse.

Bogus science

According to an October 24 announcement, the FTC recently sued four defendants behind KW Tech, the company hawking the “1 Virus Buster Invisible Mask.” After “attach[ing] a small pouch of [unspecified] ingredients and hang[ing] the badge around the neck,” the Invisible Mask makers claimed it protected wearers against “99.9 percent of all viruses and bacteria,” including multiple variants of COVID-19. The Invisible Mask was marketed as effective in public spaces and crowded areas, as well as on public transit like buses and subways. After 30 days of use, KW Tech advised Invisible Mask owners to discard their device and purchase a new one.

[Related: How to avoid getting COVID again.]

Claiming to employ “a unique combination of compounds” from a design utilizing “IBM’s Quantum Computer,” the Virus Buster Invisible Mask was described as generating an invisible, three-foot “protective gaseous barrier” using something called “ion exchange science.”

Promotional images for the ‘Virus Buster’ invisible mask product FTC

“When certain ions collide with other ions, a reaction takes place. This reaction omits [sic] an invisible gas, the point of collision,” KW Tech’s website falsely claimed, as cited in the FTC complaint. “Lighter than air, this gas collects in a tight area close to your face and neck. When this thin layer of gas gets in contact with floating elements like common germs, viruses, and pathogens, it kills them before they are able to get into the nose, mouth, and eye.”

Though this may sound entirely like a word salad, a real technique called “ion exchange” exists, often used to extract mineral impurities from drinking water. However, it requires a physical filter, such as a resin, to collect impurities, and isn’t used against germs. A gas that is lighter than air would diffuse, rise, and not hang out near someone’s mouth.

They’ve been warned before

For $29.99, customers received their Invisible Mask alongside a fake “Certificate of Registration” featuring an image of the FDA logo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, KW Tech never received any approvals from the regulatory body, according to the FTC. Despite “no reliable scientific evidence” supporting their claims, makers of the Invisible Mask continued to deceptively peddle their product, even though they vowed to stop after receiving an FTC warning letter in July 2020—amassing “at least” $100,000 in gross revenue from sales in the process since the FTC’s initial admonishment.

Three of the four defendants have already agreed to settle the complaint, which entails a ban on “advertising, promoting, or selling any product claiming to prevent or treat COVID-19, unless the claims are true and supported by scientific evidence.” The order also bars them from misrepresenting government approval claims for products, alongside a $150,000 penalty.

“The defendants’ claims that their products can stand in for approved COVID-19 vaccines are bogus,” Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said via the October 24 announcement. “The FTC will use every tool it has at its disposal to stop false and unsubstantiated health claims that endanger consumers.”

Experts continue to agree that proper masking, social distance guidelines, vaccines, and boosters remain the best preventative measures against the contraction and spread of COVID-19.