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An Echo Press Editorial: Don't be a victim of baby formula scams

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
優太丸 木戸 - stock.adobe.c
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On June 1, the Echo Press printed a story about the nationwide shortage of baby formula and how local health leaders are warning parents not to make their own formula because there's a risk that it could contain unsafe ratios of minerals and proteins.

Now there is something else parents need to know about during the shortage – scammers.

The Better Business Bureau reported last week that anytime there is an item in high demand, fraudsters find a way to take advantage of those in need. The bureau is warning families to be cautious when buying formula online.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is taking proactive measures to increase supply to help ease the shortage, many families are still in need, the bureau said.

Parents should be particularly careful about buying formula online. Here’s how the scam works, according to the bureau: An ad, post, or social media group posts they have baby formula available. The buyer contacts the seller via chat or direct message, showing photos of the cans available. The buyer makes a payment through a peer-to-peer platform such as PayPal (a BBB Accredited Business) or Venmo (a BBB Accredited Business), but the formula never arrives.

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There are measures parents can take to avoid the scam. Here are some danger signs to watch out for:

  • Positive reviews on the website that have been copied from honest sites or created by scammers. Be aware, some review websites claim to be independent but are funded by scammers. Check BBB.org
  • No indication of a brick-and-mortar address or the address shows on a Google map as a parking lot, residence, or unrelated business than what is listed on the website.
  • Misspellings, grammatical errors, or other descriptive language that is inconsistent with the product. 
  • The seller advertises on a social media site and is communicative until the payment is made. Once the payment clears, they are unreachable.

Parents should thoroughly check out the website before making a purchase. Here are more tips from the bureau:

  • Visit  BBB.org  to check a business’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Impostors have been known to copy the BBB seal. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB profile on BBB.org - check the domain of the URL.
  • Conduct an internet search with the company name and the word “scam.” This may locate other complaints about the site.  
  • Make a note of the website where the order is placed. Take a screenshot of the item ordered, in case the website disappears, or a different item is received in the mail than what was advertised.  
  • Credit cards often provide more protection against fraud than other payment methods.  
  • Think before you click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. 

Lastly, parents can help stop scammers in their tracks by reporting their suspicions. Report suspected online shopping fraud to:

  • Better Business Bureau – file a complaint at BBB.org or report a scam at BBB.org/scamtracker.
  • Federal Trade Commission – file a complaint at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-Help.  
  • National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center – report intellectual property and counterfeiting violations to iprcenter.gov/referral/view.  
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center ) – file a complaint at ic3.gov/complaint.  
  • Facebook – report ads that violate Facebook’s policies by clicking the *** next to an ad to go to facebook.com/business/help.  
  • Instagram - report copyright infringement or other policy violations at help.instagram.com.  
  • Amazon – report suspicious activities and webpages at Amazon.com.  
  • Google – report scams at Google.com. 
  • PayPal - call (888) 221-1161 to speak with a live person instead of using an automated system if you receive an item that is not as advertised.  
  • Credit card company – call the phone number on the back of the credit card to report the fraud and request a refund. 
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