TULSA, Okla. — Nationwide shortages of products like baby formula can lead to scammers taking advantage of desperate consumers.
As Chelsey Norris tries to relax on the couch and read to her children, Levi and Zoey, a single can of formula sits on the table. That makes these days anything but relaxing, as Chelsey says she can’t find any more formula on store shelves.
“I am extremely stressed out about it,” Norris says. “I never thought this would happen.”
Two-year-old Zoey’s old enough to drink regular milk, and they hope to have 10-month-old Levi on milk and baby food in a couple of months, but for now, as his mother says, formula is his best friend. One can, though, won’t go very far.
“It’ll last about a week, considering he’s a big boy, he likes his food,” Norris says.
She says she’ll ration the formula she has left the best she can, until the family can find more — hopefully without falling victim to false promises.
Scammers have sunk to new lows, says Colleen Tressler, with the Federal Trade Commission.
“They’re popping up online and tricking desperate parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives,” Tressler says.
The FTC says scammers may set up fake websites or profiles on social media with product images and logos of well-known formula brands, all to make you think you’re buying from the companies’ official website.
So before you order from an unfamiliar online store, the FTC says check out the company or product by typing its name in a search engine along with terms like review, complaint, or scam.
Credit cards, not debit cards, give you the strongest protection and chance to get your money back, but anyone who demands payment by gift card, money transfer, cryptocurrency or through cash apps like PayPal or Venmo is most likely a scammer.
“To not to be able to provide that for my son makes me really frustrated and sad,” Norris says.
More signs of a potential online purchase scam include:
- Positive reviews that have been copied from honest sites or created by scammers.
- Remember, some review websites claim to be independent, but are funded by scammers.
- So check with the Better Business Bureau website for information on the company.
- But be careful. Just because a business shows the BBB seal, doesn’t mean it’s accredited. Imposters have been known to copy the seal. If the seal’s real, clicking on it should lead directly to the company’s profile on BBB.org.
- Be careful if there’s no indication of a brick-and-mortar address, or if the address shows on a Google map as a parking lot, residence, or unrelated business.
- And additional red flags include misspellings, grammatical errors, or other descriptions not consistent with the product.
- When ordering, 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 than what was advertised.
- And as always, think before you click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites.
Contact the Problem Solvers:
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere —