Baby Formula Warning: FTC Warns of Common Scams To Be Mindful of Amid Ongoing Shortage

Shot of a young woman bonding with her adorable baby boy at home.
Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

It seems there is nothing scammers won’t do to trick consumers out of their money. Now they are trying to defraud Americans over baby formula amid a nationwide shortage, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

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In a May 18 report on its website, the FTC said scammers exploiting the high demand for baby formula “have sunk to new lows” by setting up fake websites or social media profiles and tricking parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives.

The fake accounts include images and logos of well-known formula brands designed to make consumers think they’re buying products from the companies’ official sites. Many parents and caregivers have fallen prey to the scams out of desperation to find baby formula in a market with a severe supply shortage.

The shortage has been a problem since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but has gotten much worse in recent weeks. That’s partly due to the February closure of a Michigan manufacturing plant, CNBC reported. To address the issue, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on May 16 that it will issue guidelines with “increased flexibilities” regarding the importation of certain infant formula products.

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As GOBankingRates previously reported, the FDA aims to increase the supply of infant formula nationwide. The agency is also encouraging formula manufacturers worldwide to take advantage of the increased flexibilities.

For now, parents and caregivers are advised to follow certain steps to avoid being scammed. Here are some of the FTC’s suggestions:

  • Research the company or product by typing its name in a search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what other consumers say about it.
  • Whenever you order baby formula online, pay using a credit card because credit cards give you the strongest protections. You can sometimes get your money back if you ordered something but didn’t receive it. Anyone who demands payment by gift card, money transfer or cryptocurrency is likely a scammer.
  • Learn your rights as a consumer. As the FTC notes, when you shop online, sellers are supposed to ship your order “within the time stated in their ads, or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time.” If a seller can’t ship within the promised time, it must give you a revised shipping date as well as an opportunity to either cancel your order for a full refund or accept the new shipping date. If you are not given these options, you are probably dealing with a scammer.
  • Search for local resources by calling your pediatrician to see if they have any formula in stock. Pediatricians often get samples of formulas they can share. If you participate in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition assistance program, contact your local office to find formula.

If you suspect a scam, let you can let the FTC know about it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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