The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning parents that baby formula scams could be on the rise as the national formula shortage receives mainstream attention.
Hypervigilance is recommended when searching for formulas online, the marketplace watchdog’s latest news release suggests.
"Online shopping scams are the riskiest," the BBB wrote on Thursday, May 12. "With the current supply issues on many items, including formula, scammers are watching."
The BBB said that scammers typically target social media users with advertisements, posts or private group messages. Buyers who are in need get in contact with the alleged seller and arrange payment through peer-to-peer money transfer platforms, including PayPal or Venmo.
Baby formula shortage, empty shelves at Target due to product recall and supply chain issues, Queens, New York. (Photo by: Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Buyers realize they’ve been scammed when the item "never arrives" at their home and the fraudulent seller disappears once they try to inquire about their order, the BBB explained.
The BBB recommends five steps before American consumers commit to purchasing baby formula from an unknown online store.
Newborn Baby Bottle fed from a bottle at a hospital. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)
1. Check a store’s accreditation status on BBB.org, which marks a business as an operation that acts "honestly and with integrity."
2. Look up unfamiliar stores in search engines with keywords like "scam," so complaints or fraudulent activity can be uncovered.
3. Take notes and photos of the online store you’re considering ordering from in case the website or account is deactivated. The BBB also recommends documenting the product ordered in case a different item is sent from what was expected.
4. Consider using a credit card for purchases on new websites since credit card companies tend to "provide more protection against fraud" compared to other payment methods, the BBB said.
5. Think about the item you’re purchasing before you enter your payment information. The BBB stressed that consumers should be "especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites."
A mother bottle feeds her baby. (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
If a baby formula scam does happen to you, the BBB says consumers should file a complaint on the BBB.org scam tracker.
Complaints can also be filed with the following government agencies: the Federal Trade Commission, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
The BBB says fraud reports should be made to credit card companies and the online marketplace or social media website where the scammer advertised and made the dishonest sale.