By Nathalie Voit

The ongoing infant formula shortage means plenty of room for scammers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned on its website.

In a consumer alert issued on May 18, the federal agency alerted the public about the rise of online scammers “tricking desperate parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives.” The FTC issued several precautionary steps parents should take when shopping for formula online to avoid becoming scam victims.

Before ordering infant formula from an unfamiliar shop, verify that the seller or product is legitimate by checking out reviews of the company or item online.

If a seller demands payment by gift card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency, you are dealing with a scammer. The agency recommends paying with a credit card since this type of payment is considered the most secure and will usually cover you if you paid for something but didn’t receive it.   

Understand your rights when you shop online. Ensure the seller pays you within the stated time listed on their website or within 30 days if their ads don’t specify an estimated arrival time. If the seller fails to ship the item within the promised time, request a revised shipping date with the option to either cancel your order with a full refund or accept the new delivery date.

Search for local resources in your area before turning to unfamiliar online stores. The FTC said your local pediatrician may have formula in stock and may be of assistance. If you are a beneficiary of the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition assistance program, reach out to your local office to find formula.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently the subject of a federal investigation into whether it properly responded to news of a bacterial outbreak at an Abbott Laboratories manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Michigan, that may have contaminated some of its baby formula products. The FDA inspection that followed prompted a nationwide recall of formula in February that led to a national shortage and several infant deaths.