It may come as no surprise that scammers have discovered the growing infant formula shortage and are seeking to cash in.
The hook comes in the form of an ad or a post on social media that tells anxious parents that there are ample supplies of baby formula available for sale. Relieved, parents submit their orders and make a payment through a legitimate peer-to-peer payment platform.
They wait, but the formula never arrives.
Consumer advocates say these types of scams are particularly dangerous because the targets are already worried and upset. They may have gone from store to store without finding any formula. They’ve watched news reports that display the empty shelves.
According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), complaints about infant formula scams are already rolling into the BBB Scam Tracker. As with most scams, there are ways to detect when the pitch is coming from a scammer.
If there is no physical address for the “company” making the offer, it’s likely a scam. If there is an address, consumers should conduct a Google Street View search of the address to make sure it’s not a vacant lot or a suburban home.
Read the copy carefully. If there are misspellings or improper grammar, that is usually a sign that the offer is not legitimate.
Carefully check reviews
Consumers should also look for reviews of the “company” making the offer and check more than one source. Search the company's name followed by the word “scam” and see what pops up.
Credit cards often provide more protection against fraud than other payment methods. If the seller won’t accept a credit card, that’s yet another red flag.
Also, make sure you think before you click on an offer. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Parents should not let their anxiety about the shortage of infant formula lead them into becoming the victim of a scam.
While it’s not exactly a scam, some operators are seeking to cash in on the shortage by selling baby formula at huge mark-ups. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is seeking to implement provisions of a state law that would allow her to go after price-gougers.
“If Oregonians see significant price increases for baby formula, I encourage them to report it to my office immediately,” Rosenblum said. “Anyone who tries to take advantage of this shortage by gouging parents desperate to feed their babies is on notice.”
Oregon law authorizes the governor to declare an abnormal disruption of the market in response to “any emergency that prevents ready availability of essential consumer goods or services.”
Rosenblum has requested the declaration, saying it will allow her office to take action against any business or online vendor that marks up the price of baby formula — an essential consumer product — by more than 15%.