Topeka, KS– Attorney General Derek Schmidt today urged all Kansas parents to be cautious when shopping for and purchasing baby formula in the midst of extreme shortages occurring across the nation.
Kansans are facing shortages of baby formula following pandemic-related disruptions in the global supply chain and a recall of significant amounts of baby formula by the Food and Drug Administration due to bacteria concerns.
“Any time there is a shortage of an essential product, like baby formula, scammers will try to take advantage of Kansans in need,” Schmidt said. “It is important that consumers keep their guard up and use caution to avoid falling victim to scams.”
Most baby formula scams being reported to the attorney general’s office are occurring online, through non-traditional retail platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, and through direct messaging on social media platforms.
“Scammers are posting bogus online offers to lure in desperate parents and trick them into turning over cash or credit card information,” Schmidt said “Meanwhile, the formula the scammers are advertising is either nonexistent, counterfeit, expired or recalled.”
The attorney general’s office offers the following guidance to help parents make informed decisions:
Stick with trusted vendors. When purchasing formula, stick with trusted vendors that are well known and well established. This reduces your chances of falling for a scam, and gives you a real entity you can return to if there is a problem with the product you purchase.
Know the seller. When shopping online, take the time to ensure you know who is trying to sell the baby formula. If it is an individual, see if the individual has publicly available information you can use to verify the person is who they say they are. If it is a business, check for reviews of the business to ensure they actually deliver the products people purchase.
Beware of social media. Scammers use easy-to-access platforms like Instagram and Facebook Marketplace to target young parents who are more likely to need formula. They design advertisements to make it appear that they have formula on hand, when in reality they are using stock or old images. Scammers often appear as real people, impersonating someone else by using familiar names or believable profiles. Scammers also may join parenting online groups to target specific audiences through direct messages and group messages.
Beware of fake websites. Any scammer can setup a seemingly believable website to appear as a legitimate baby formula vendor. Before you purchase from an unknown vendor, do your research on the vendor. If you cannot find anything on the vendor, or only find negative reviews, do not purchase from the vendor.
Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it is easier to dispute charges that you did not approve or to get your money back if there is a problem. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards do not have the same protections as a credit card.
Be aware of common scam tactics. If someone contacts you that you do not know offering to sell you baby formula, do not engage. This is most likely a scam. Scammers also use high-pressure tactics to get you to purchase now. They will warn you that their inventory is low, product is selling quickly, other buyers are waiting in line, or place extreme time deadlines on purchasing the product. If you feel pressured or feel suspicious, do not purchase from the person.
Safety check the product. If you purchase baby formula from an individual, an unknown vendor, or a third party, make sure the product is genuine and safe. Due to the recent FDA recall, scammers may attempt to sell unsafe or expired products to unsuspecting parents. Check the FDA website to determine if the formula you have purchased is subject to a recall. Ensure the brand on the label matches the brand you believe you purchased. Confirm the expiration date and be certain the product will not expire before you are able to use it all. Examine the packaging for signs of tampering or damage. If the packaging includes a sealed lid, ensure the seal remains intact.
Consumers who believe they may have been the victim of a scam are encouraged to file a complaint with the Office of the Kansas Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-432-2310 or online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.