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The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that scammers are taking advantage of a nationwide baby formula shortage to dupe consumers into paying exorbitant prices through bogus online stores.
According to a consumer alert, the con artists use images and logos of well-known formula brands to entice “desperate parents and caregivers” to fake websites or social media profiles. The FTC claims that consumers believe they are purchasing from a company’s official website, but the formula never arrives.
“Scammers taking advantage of the high demand for baby formula have reached new lows,” according to the agency.
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The Covid-19 pandemic began with a shortage of baby formula, which has worsened in recent weeks. The scarcity is due in part to the February closure of a Michigan manufacturing plant, which resulted in the deaths of two infants who consumed formula made there.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration reached an agreement with Abbott Nutrition, the country’s largest formula manufacturer, to help alleviate the shortage.
Last week, the White House announced that, among other things, it would make it easier to import formula from other countries.
The FTC suggests the following methods for avoiding a baby formula scam:
Check out the company or product using a search engine. Use terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam” in your search.
Only scammers will ask for money in the form of a gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. When paying with a credit card, you have the most protection; you can sometimes get your money back if something you ordered never arrives.
Understand your legal rights. Sellers must ship an online order within the timeframe stated in their ads (or within 30 days if the ads do not specify a timeframe). If the seller is unable to ship by that time, you must be given a revised shipping date and the option to cancel for a full refund or accept the new shipping date.
Look for resources in your area. Your pediatrician, for example, may have formula on hand and be able to assist you. Formula can be obtained through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance program by contacting their local office.