Scammers Are Targeting Desperate Parents in Need of Baby Formula

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KEY POINTS

  • Many parents are having a difficult time finding baby formula.
  • Some criminals are taking advantage of that with fake social media accounts and false promises.


Way to make a terrible situation worse.

Since last year, consumers have been grappling with supply chain issues that have caused inventory shortages across a number of key industries. Right now, car buyers, for example, are struggling not just with high prices, but a lack of vehicles available to purchase.

But frustrating as that is, some parents of infants are dealing with an even more troubling issue -- a lack of baby formula. Parents routinely rely on formula to feed their babies before the age of 1, at which point children often transition to milk. What’s more, some parents don't get a choice in which type of baby formula they use. If their children have allergies or sensitive stomachs, they need to stick to a specific formula brand to avoid having babies in distress.

But there's a major shortage of baby formula that's escalated in recent weeks. And now, parents all over the country are scrambling to get their hands on formula in an effort to get their infants fed.

Unfortunately, criminals are taking advantage of that shortage, and there are already online scams emerging. And it's important for parents to know what to look out for so they don't lose money.

Making a tough situation even worse

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and millions of people lost their jobs, scammers came out in full force, targeting people who were expecting stimulus checks to land in their bank accounts. Now, criminals are going a similar route by targeting stressed out parents who are only trying to make sure their infants have enough food.

The Federal Trade Commission recently reported that criminals are creating fake websites claiming to sell formula that doesn't exist. Many of these criminals are creating fake social media accounts in an effort to lure parents onto their websites, and then taking their money for no product in return.

Avoiding a formula scam

The best way to avoid being scammed when buying formula is to purchase it from trusted sources. Buying through a site like Amazon or Target, for example, is a safe bet, whereas buying through a site that isn't a household name could mean taking a risk.

Consumers should also be wary if they're asked to pay for formula via unconventional methods. A merchant that insists on being paid via wire transfer only, as opposed to with a credit card, is likely a criminal trying to make a quick buck.

Similarly, consumers should not pay for formula using methods like gift cards or cryptocurrency. If they're asked to do so on a given site, there's a good chance that site isn't legitimate.

How to find formula

The good news is that the Biden administration is taking steps to address the formula shortage, so in the coming weeks, that crunch could ease. But some parents may not be able to wait weeks to get their hands on formula.

A good bet is for parents to contact their local pediatricians and see if there are samples available. Doctors' offices are often given large quantities of samples, and some may be willing to help out desperate parents.

It could also help to join a local parents group via social media. In recent weeks, parents have taken to posting when stores get formula in stock, so that may be a good way to source it locally.

It's truly terrible that so many parents have been put in a position where they have to stress out about feeding their infants. Avoiding formula scams could at least spare parents an added layer of misery during an already trying time.

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