Scammers targeting parents in midst of baby formula shortage – warning signs to look for

Can of baby formula powder
Photo credit Getty Images

(WWJ) – The Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning to families that are using the internet to locate supplies of baby formula in the midst of a nationwide shortage.

The BBB says a recent rash of incidents outside of Michigan have seen scammers rob thousands of dollars from unsuspecting families after promising to deliver baby formula but disappearing without a trace once those families pay up.

Officials are taking steps to ease the shortage, which stems from the closure of an Abbott Nutrition plant in Sturgis, Mich. – the country’s largest baby formula producer – back in February after at least four infant cases of bacterial infections were linked to products made in the plant.

President Joe Biden recently announced Operation Fly Formula to help families struggling to find formula, and the first shipments arrived over the weekend from Switzerland.

But in recent weeks before relief efforts began, many parents have turned to the internet to find formula, only to be scammed. Officials have not said anything about any Michiganders who have fallen victim to baby formula scams.

The BBB says these scams often look something like this:

“An ad, post, or social media group posts they have baby formula available. The buyer contacts the seller via chat or direct message, showing photos of the cans available. The buyer makes a payment through a peer-to-peer platform such as PayPal (a BBB Accredited Business) or Venmo (a BBB Accredited Business), but the formula never arrives.”

Officials have released a number of warning signs to look for when searching for formula online:

• Positive reviews on the website that have been copied from honest sites or created by scammers. Be aware, some review websites claim to be independent but are funded by scammers. Check BBB.org.
• No indication of a brick-and-mortar address or the address shows on a Google map as a parking lot, residence, or unrelated business than what is listed on the website.
• Misspellings, grammatical errors, or other descriptive language that is inconsistent with the product.
• The seller advertises on a social media site and is communicative until the payment is made. Once the payment clears, they are unreachable.
• The seller wants to come to your house to deliver the product personally.

Consumers who think they might have been scammed or have spotted a scam online should report it. Tips can be sent to the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org, or by calling your local police department.

More information on baby formula scams can be found on the BBB website.

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