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Scammers seeking to exploit baby formula shortage, FTC warns

Biden launches plan to fly baby formula to U.S. 03:16

Scammers are looking to prey on U.S. parents struggling to find baby formula amid a national shortage of the nutritional products, the Federal Trade Commission warned Wednesday. 

The agency urged consumers scouring the internet for formula to beware of people who claim to be selling brand-name products, but who fail to deliver them after someone makes an online purchase.

"Scammers exploiting the high demand for baby formula have sunk to new lows. They're popping up online and tricking desperate parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives," the FTC said in a statement

In some cases, scammers create fake websites or social media profiles and use name brand logos and product shots to lure customers. They trick consumers into providing payment information for products that they never receive. Others are gouging customers on ecommerce platforms like eBay, charging hundreds of dollars for formula that normally sells for less than $20. 

Price gouging — or offering products at well above market rates — violates eBay's policies and is prohibited on the site, a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. 

Nestlé flies baby formula to U.S. amid shortage 00:40

"Due to the ongoing shortage, we are stepping up our manual review of listings to protect against price gouging of baby formula," the spokesperson said. 

How to avoid a scam

The FTC urged consumers to research sellers before clicking "buy." Regulators advise doing an internet search using the company's name plus the words "review," "complaint" or "scam" to see if they have been reported in the past.

Also consider the payment method you use. Credit card companies often protect customers against scams and can help recoup your money if a product is purchase but never delivered. And the FTC warned that sites that demand payment by gift card, money transfer or in cryptocurrency are scams.  

Finally, regulators say consumers should use local and known resources. Consult your pediatrician to see if they have formula in stock or sign up for a formula exchange where consumers can request particular products and match with donors who have extra supply.


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