Last-minute eclipse glass seekers facing shortage, dangerous fakes online

In Columbia, Mo., even Shakespeare’s pizza is getting in on the act.


  • Fake eclipse glasses are dangerous
  • Make sure you know the source of yours
  • If you don’t have plans for Monday, stay home. Eclipse traffic is going to be a nightmare

Most scammers want to rob you blind.  But eclipse glass scammers could, quite literally, make you blind.

Counterfeit eclipse glasses are being sold online, and using them to look at the Sun during Monday’s eclipse could cause catastrophic damage to your eyes, says the American Astronomical Society.

If you’re like most busy Americans — and not like eclipse chasers — you are just now getting your head around the idea that Monday will be a strange day.  Trying to make plans now to get to the “zone of totality” is nuts; don’t do that to yourself.  Traffic getting home could be epic, or worse.

In most of the lower 48 states, people will get to enjoy a sizable blockage of the sun.  Things will get a little darker during midday, and your co-workers will start wandering outside to look up at the sky.

If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you might feel left out. But if you are just now looking around for eclipse glasses, you might still feel left out.  A few weeks ago, the cheap protective eyewear was being given away for free with T-shirt purchases. Now, many stores are sold out.  So you might be turning to the Internet now, where you might be forced to buy a 4-pack of glasses for $45 (and hope they arrive in time. They are currently back ordered).

It’s imperative to make sure the glasses you get are the real thing. The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about eclipse scams. So has Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

“Be aware that you could get blindsided by a blatant scam when you purchase  eclipse glasses,” Madigan said.  “Take time to investigate glasses before your purchase them so you can safely enjoy this remarkable event.”

Unfortunately, there’s no reliable way for consumers to identify the fake eyewear.  Safe glasses meet an international standard that goes by the catchy name “ISO 12312-2.” Once upon a time, experts might have told consumers to look for a label on glasses indicating they are  ISO 12312-2 compliant. But scammers are just faking that designation now, printing it on glasses that haven’t been properly manufactured.

The problem is real; Amazon has recalled some glasses it sold consumers and issued a refund “out of an abundance of caution.”

It’s important to understand that you can damage your eyes without feeling pain; that’s why fake eclipse glasses are so dangerous.  While it’s fairly impossible for a consumer to conduct a test and prove the glasses are safe, there are some tests that can confirm they are unsafe.  From the AAS website:

How can you tell if your solar viewer is not safe? You shouldn’t be able to see anything through a safe solar filter except the Sun itself or something comparably bright, such as the Sun reflected in a mirror, a sunglint off shiny metal, the hot filament of an unfrosted incandescent light bulb, a bright halogen light bulb, a bright-white LED bulb (including the flashlight on your smartphone), a bare compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb, or an arc-welding torch. All such sources (except perhaps the welding torch) should appear quite dim through a solar viewer. If you can see shaded lamps or other common household light fixtures (not bare bulbs) of more ordinary brightness through your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer, and you’re not sure the product came from a reputable vendor, it’s no good.

Perhaps this weekend, you might want to try out a couple of these tests and make sure your glasses aren’t obviously dangerous.  In the end, the AAS says the most important thing for consumers to do is obtain glasses from reputable organizations. It has a handy list of places to buy the glasses on its website. If you run out and buy glasses this weekend, make sure you understand the source of the glasses.  Getting a pair at a planetarium is probably fine.  Getting one from your co-workers’ friends’ brother might not be. And racing to buy glasses from an online vendor you’ve never heard (and paying for express shipping) is probably a really bad idea.  Just don’t look up on Monday; look at pictures online instead. There will be plenty.



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About Bob Sullivan 1637 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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