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Scammers increase attacks as baby formula shortage continues

Families voice concerns as FTC issues a consumer alert
Scammers increase attacks as baby formula shortage continues
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 09:13:22-04

Over the weekend the nation’s largest manufacturer of baby formula announced it reached an agreement with the FDA to restart production. It’s a step in the right direction, but even with this announcement, the formula shortage is expected to continue for weeks. News5 takes a look at the situation and how scammers are ramping up the attacks while this lasts.

If you are someone who relies on baby formula right now, or knows a family who does, you know it has been a scramble with many parents having to rely on friends, food banks and doctor’s offices to find formula right now to feed their babies.

Abbott Nutrition leaders say they believe it will take about three weeks before their new formula starts arriving on store shelves to ease this shortage. Unfortunately, that’s enough time for fraudsters to make one last push to rip off desperate parents who aren’t careful.

”Who preys on a mother’s vulnerability like that at a time like this,“ said Elizabeth Snyder, who has a family feeling the impacts of the baby formula shortage.

"With her drinking four or five bottles a day at 8 ounces, the formula doesn't last long anymore," said Brooke Koslowski, sharing her frustration about the shortage and scammers who are trying to capitalize on the situation. "This is a serious issue, and you don't do that to any parent, especially because some parents cannot breastfeed. Like I was not able to with her.”

Concerned families are sharing their frustrations from coast to coast while trying to avoid scams created by people looking to cash-in on the fear of not being able to track down that precious formula babies need.

Snyder has been on the hunt for baby formula to try to help her sister-in-law and infant nephew.

"She has left so many stores crying. Stood in the Walmart aisle crying because she doesn't know how she is going to feed her baby," said Snyder.

In the month of May alone, the Better Business Bureau scam tracker has several reports of consumers losing hundreds of dollars trying to purchase baby formula online, often paying through cash apps and the formula never shows up and the seller disappears.

"There's a lot of new moms out there that are very nervous and very upset because they can't find it in the store. So, the next natural thing to do is to go online and look for it," said Sandra Guile of the Better Business Bureau.

Snyder says on social media she thought she found someone who could help with the perfect deal for her family’s formula needs.

"She said hey I have 14 cans of this formula that my sister-in-law in Tennessee is needing. She was like where are you located? I can send them to you. She sent me a photo of the 14 cans of formula otherwise I would have thought it was sketchy too," said Snyder.

Snyder’s sister sent money to a provided cash app account and waited for the delivery, but after a few days, bad news.

“I think this girl blocked me,” said Snyder. “So, I get on my messenger, and I was just like 'oh my gosh' you just saw the gray icon and not her profile. She was nowhere to be found."

The money was gone and so was the person who appeared to be a parent who just wanted to help.

Here is some FTC expert advice to help avoid these attacks:

  • Check out the seller or company first: Search for complaints and scam reports
  • Consider how you pay: Credit cards offer the most protection. Be careful with cash apps and cryptocurrency. Remember, never pay in gift cards. 
  • Know your rights when it comes to shipping dates, delays and refunds
  • Search for local resources first before going online: Your first calls should be to your doctor and local nutrition assistance programs

The hope is between the work being done at the federal level to bring formula into the country, plus Abbott’s ability to restart production will help with supply issues in the coming months.

In the meantime, if you see or suspect a scam, report it. If you need help doing that visit the FTC website, StopFraudColorado.gov and the BBB Scam Tracker.
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