The U.S. is experiencing a severe baby formula shortage due to global supply chain issues, recalls and import restrictions. As the shortage continues across the country, scammers are stooping to new lows. In an effort to take advantage of parents desperate to find formula for their babies, baby formula scams are popping up on the internet.
Watch For These Baby Formula Scams
Like any online shopping scam, these scams can take many forms, from fake online stores selling counterfeit formula to social media posts offering formula at inflated prices. Keep an eye out for these types of scams:
Scammers will create fake websites using manufacturer logos and product images to make it look like the real deal. Once you place your order and enter your financial information, the scammer runs off with the funds and you never receive the product.
Watch out for these warning signs of a fake website:
- The website contains typos and poor grammar.
- You can’t find any contact information for the website or business. A legitimate website should always have easily accessible contact information.
- You don’t receive a confirmation email after making a purchase.
- The URL starts with “http://” instead of “https://” and doesn’t appear next to a lock icon in your browser.
Shady Social Media Listings
Scammers will create listings on seller sites such as Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Nextdoor. Most often you will pay for the formula but it never arrives. Othertimes, the item will arrive but they will be out of date or, unbeknownst to you, were stolen.
Look for these red flags of a shady social media listing:
- The ad contains typos and poor grammar.
- The seller asks you to pay using gift cards or cryptocurrency.
- They are price gouging or offering a deal that’s too good to be true.
- The seller’s profile looks fake. They don’t have many photos and there is little activity on their account.
- They ask you to communicate away from the website or app where they listed the item.
Scammers will redirect baby formula from its normal distribution channels to relabel it. They might relabel formula to conceal its “use by” date or to disguise its true ingredients. Either way, counterfeit infant formula can have unspeakable consequences on your baby’s health and welfare.
Be cautious when purchasing formula online:
- Look for changes in the formula’s color, smell or taste.
- Check containers for tampering or damage.
- If you are buying infant formula in cases, check that the “use by” dates and lot numbers match between the box and the containers inside.
If you have any questions or concerns, notify the manufacturer.
Immediate Action Steps
Desperation to feed and nurture your baby may cloud your judgment. If you think you may be the victim of a baby formula scam, it’s important to act quickly to protect your family and your finances. Follow these immediate action steps:
- If you paid using gift cards or a money transfer, contact the issuer immediately. It’s unlikely that you will be able to get your money back if you paid using a gift card or money transfer, but the issuer might be able to help you stop the transaction.
- Contact your bank or credit card company right away if you provided financial information. They may be able to help you cancel the transaction or get your money back. They will also be able to help you secure any compromised accounts.
- Keep all documentation related to the scam, including any emails, messages or receipts. You may need to provide this information to law enforcement if you file a report.
Where to Report Baby Formula Scams
Reporting formula scams is an important step in the cybercrime recovery process. When you report, you help others avoid being scammed. As a society, the more people that report online scams, the more national reporting data we can collect. This additional data gives law enforcement a better chance at catching criminals and decreasing cybercrime.
Once you have followed the immediate action steps, report to the following entities to help other families avoid these scams:
- Federal Trade Commision (FTC)
- Better Business Bureau
- Your State Attorney General
- The platform where the transaction took place
How Can You Protect Your Baby
Slow it down — Scammers will create a sense of urgency by saying that their stock is running out in an attempt to get you to make a purchase before you have time to think about it. Take your time to avoid being rushed into a bad purchase.
Spot check — Do your research to double check the details you’re being told. Read reviews and do a quick internet search of the product name or company followed by the words “scam” or “complaint”. This will help you determine if it’s a scam.
Stop! Don’t send — Scammers will try to steal your money by rushing you into paying with unconventional payment methods like gift cards, cryptocurrency or money transfers. If they insist that you pay with one of these methods, it’s a scam. Always pay with a method that offers strong protection against scams, such as a credit card.
What To Do If You Can’t Find Formula
If you are having difficulty finding formula to feed your baby, search for resources in your area:
- Call your pediatrician or family doctor to see if they have any formula samples or know where you can find some.
- Check smaller drug stores. Many times smaller stores still have items in stock when the big stores run out.
- If you participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), you can contact your local office directly for help.