KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With the baby food section of grocery store shelves nearly empty, the shortage of baby formula has forced frustrated parents to search social media for enough supplies to feed their children. Their desperation is now a target for scammers seeking to take advantage of the nationwide shortage.
A Federal Trade Commission bulletin warns: “Scammers exploiting the high demand for baby formula have sunk to new lows by making fake websites using product images and logos of household-name formula brands, all to make you think you’re buying products from the company’s official website.”
“So, they are just putting pictures of formula out there on social media. They’re trying to get people’s attention with the cans so you can pay them and hopefully get the formula. But, the formula doesn’t exits, it is never going to happen,” said Tony Binkley, president of the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee.
Binkley said the bureau has been fielding complaints from parents who were victims of formula scams online.
“We’ve been seeing complaints coming in from around the country and Canada. It is happening because scammers are taking advantage of whatever they can, if there is an emergency they’re going to create a hyper emergency to try to get you to do that,” Binkley said.
Experts said scammers can appear legitimate, even posting ads on reputable social media sites offering to sell formula. Then they disappear once they receive payment.
“They try to create a sense of urgency to make you spend money without thinking, give away information without thinking, so you can be one the first and one of the few that gets what they have,” Binkley said.
However, there are steps parents can take to make sure the seller is legitimate. Binkley suggests taking the seller’s name and searching it with the word scam behind it.
“Do your research. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor because doctors will be able to find formula if they haven’t been able to do that,” Binkley added.
BBB also said to keep an eye out for red flags like misspellings, grammatical errors and descriptive language inconsistent with the product. Experts suggest keeping receipts from all transactions, and if possible, using a credit card for the purchase, since that could provide more protection against fraud than other payment methods.
For anyone who falls victim to an online shopping fraud, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org or report a scam at BBB.org/scamtracker. People are also able to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov.