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Baby formula scams popping up according to the BBB

The consumer affairs watchdog says with shortages comes scam artists

CROMWELL, Conn. — With baby formula in short supply on store shelves, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be wary of scam artists offering to sell them items that are then never delivered.

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it is taking proactive measures to increase supply to help ease the shortage.

The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers on Feb. 17 to avoid some powdered baby formula products from a Sturgis, Michigan, facility run by Abbott Nutrition, which then initiated a voluntary recall. According to findings released in March by federal safety inspectors, Abbott failed to maintain sanitary conditions and procedures at the plant.

On Tuesday, the FDA said it was working with U.S. manufacturers to increase their output and streamline paperwork to allow more imports. The agency noted that supply chain issues associated with the pandemic were part of the problem and that consumers bought more baby formula in April than in the month before the recall.

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According to the BBB, the scam usually starts with a post on social media saying they have baby formula available.

"The buyer contacts the seller via chat or direct message, showing photos of the cans available," said the organization in a press release. "The buyer makes a payment through a peer-to-peer platform such as PayPal or Venmo, but the formula never arrives."

The BBB lists these signs of a potential online purchase scam that can include:

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.

The BBB has these tips on checking sites out to see if they are legitimate:

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.

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 (FTC) - 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 enter (IC3) - 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 web pages 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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Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

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