The baby formula shortage is affecting families across the country, and now scammers, who can be very effective when a parent is desperately trying to feed their child, are using it to take advantage of families.
“It’s happening now,” said Viridiana Quintana of the Better Business Bureau.
Quintana said the BBB’s scam tracker has seen an increasing number of formula-related reports across the United States, including in San Diego. In many cases, these reports refer to websites that seemed legitimate, but never sent purchased formula.
“We’ve seen a lot of posts where scammers say they have a local business where they have the product,” Quintana said. “Maybe they have a fake page, they may even have reviews, and reviews that are too good to be true.”
Due to fake online storefronts, it’s important to inspect any third-party website closely, especially if they’re trying to pressure you into a quick sale.
“Do some research on this company,” Quintana said. “Look at the page of the person who posted this message.”
Sometimes there are immediate red flags, like being asked for a strange payment method, like gift cards or cryptocurrency, or being asked to pay before coordinating a pickup location.
The BBB said that if you shop online, you should also use a credit card, as there are more built-in scam protections.
As formula shipments arrive under Pres. Joe Biden’s Operation Fly formula, it’s likely the shelves will still sit empty for weeks. It’s not useful for families who need the formula now.
Teresa Hardisty, a pediatrician at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, said making your own formula, diluting what you have or switching to cow’s milk can be dangerous. She also said that most babies can start eating solid foods between 4 and 6 months.
Finally, if you need formula now, Hardisty recommends going directly to baby stores, checking manufacturers’ websites, or contacting your pediatrician, who may have samples to share.
“We just want parents to be careful because we don’t want them dealing with a scammer when they’re just trying to find a product they need,” Quintana said.