Parents warned to beware of online scammers in search for baby formula

In the panic and desperation to find baby formula, scammers are finding a rich source of victims.

The Better Business Bureau warned parents this week to beware of online scams in their search for baby formula.

According to the BBB, such scams start with an ad, post or social media group post that say they have baby formula. The buyer will use chat or direct messages to contact the seller, who will show photos of the available cans. But once the buyer sends a payment through a peer-to-peer platform, such as PayPal or Venmo, the formula never arrives. In other scenarios, a different product than promised is shipped to the buyer.

“They’re reaching out to these people on social media. You click on a link, you’re desperate and then you order without vetting the company or the source and you’re getting scammed,” said Steve McFarland, President and CEO of BBB Los Angeles. 

People in search of formula online should beware of positive reviews be suspicious of a lack of brick-and-mortar addresses, or ones that show a parking lot, home, or unrelated business on a Google map, the BBB said. Ads and posts with misspellings, grammatical errors, or inconsistent descriptions should also raise a red flag. A seller who becomes unreachable once payment is made is a sure sign of an online scam, according to the BBB.

McFarland warned furthered that by warning against sale offers that requested payment in the form of “a cash card or a gift card you can send to them or Venmo or Zelle.”

Consumers should check the BBB’s website for a business’s rating and accreditation status, rather than trust a BBB seal on a website – imposters have been known to copy it – before making a purchase. An internet search of the company’s name plus the word “scam” could turn up other complaints about the site, as well.

Parents who decide to purchase formula online with an unfamiliar site should use a credit card as a protection against fraud, the BBB said.

As millions of parents nationwide continue to search for solutions, pediatricians warn against diluting the baby formula they do have in order to make it last longer. 

“Formula is heavily FDA-regulated,” said Dr. Rishma Chand, a pediatrician with Dignity Health Northridge Hospital. “So if you’re trying to make formula at home, if you dilute your child’s formula, you’re also diluting the nutrients and electrolytes and other essential key nutrients that your child needs.”

She also warned against the use of regular milk or milk substitutes.

“Absolutely it’s dangerous,” she said. “Not only is it not as clean, so you’re risking possible bacterial contamination, but you’re also depriving your child of all the essential nutrients your child needs while they’re growing.”

Instead she suggests that parents have flexibility in trying different brands, even if they’re generic. 

“Chances are they’ll tolerate the different formula,” she concluded. 

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