Are face mask exemption cards legit? Coronavirus fact vs. fiction

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s a nationwide warning about cards that claim you don’t have to wear a mask.

The “face mask except” cards are supposedly backed by the federal government, but the U.S. Attorney for North Carolina says the cards are a fraud.

For some, not wearing a mask is a contentious issue because they claim it’s their right not to wear one.

RELATED: Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Now, official looking cards are appearing all over the internet buttressing their claims.

CBS 17 Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia took a copy of one card to downtown Raleigh, asking people if they thought it was legit.

Stephen Pedaline was among those fooled by the card saying “Not knowing anything about it, I’d say, yeah, it’s real.”

The cards bear the logo of the U.S. Department Of Justice as well as the logo of something called the Freedom To Breathe Agency.

“There’s a lot of people trying to get out of wearing a mask, so it doesn’t surprise me they’re trying to use an eagle and something that looks official to have it as an excuse,” said Ashley Kevitt when she looked at a copy of the card.

The cards invoke the Americans with Disability Act and promise steep fines for violations, but, the cards carry no force of law, the U.S. Attorney for Eastern District Of North Carolina said.

“Their use of the (Department of Justice) seal and referring to us as the source is wrong and it is a violation of the law,” said Robert Higdon Jr.

The card also encourages cardholders to call the Department of Justice to report any violations of the Americans with Disability Act.

“The Americans with Disability act does not speak to this issue and it’s unfortunate they would reference that act,” said Higdon. “The act has nothing to do with this card.”

The card claims a business that denies access to the holder will result in “further actions by the Freedom to Breathe Agency (FTBA).”

So who is the FTBA? Their website address indicates they aren’t a government agency.

When CBS 17 accessed their website, we found it said the Freedom To Breathe Agency is a movement “dedicated to protecting freedom and liberty.” It offers a printable version of the card along with merchandise including $20 baseball caps, $15 mugs and $10 backpacks.

The Department of Justice is trying to learn more about this group so it can take further action.

“We’re trying to figure out who they are,” said Higdon. “As far as I know, they only exist on the internet and their Facebook page has disappeared.”

Higdon also says the USDOJ isn’t sure if this is one organized group or of there are a number of different people who are behind these fake cards all using the same name of the FTBA.

At the moment, it’s important to remember there is no government statute exempting people from wearing a face covering.

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