KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The recent baby formula shortage is impacting families across the country, and some scammers are looking to take advantage of parents.
According to The Federal Trade Commission, scammers are targeting families online trying to purchase formula for babies.
KSHB 41 News reached out to local technology consultant Burton Kelso, for tips on how to protect yourself from being scammed.
“Anytime there is a crisis, cyber criminals are always looking at ways that they can make money,” Kelso said.
Kelso adds this type of scam is an easy success for online criminals.
“It doesn’t take much to take photos of baby formula, and then post them online, in order to lure people and trick them out of their money,” Kelso said.
With store shelves empty, families are desperate, so Kelso provided some specific tips to prevent yourself from getting scammed.
First, Kelso says research before you Google search and find the first available formula for sale.
"Criminals will take ads out on Google search, because those ads will actually appear before a legitimate source on Google,” he said.
Kelso also suggested checking reviews of the company.
“For instance, if they find an online retail, make sure you take a look at the reviews to see if people have been scammed," Kelso said. "If people are dissatisfied with the product, they are definitely going to leave a negative review."
Checking the company's history online can also be useful in deciding if the company is legit.
"Make sure that you can find a little history about the company. Most legitimate companies are going to have websites with their own domain name, not an off shoot of a legitimate domain," he said. "Just find out the history of the company before you invest and try to get some baby formula.”
Kelso also said to look into profile of seller, and a simple google search of images used can make all the difference.
"Look at the profile of the person, and ensure that they are a legitimate source rather than just some random bank account or bot on social media,” Kelso said “If you can do a Google search on the image itself, you can make sure it’s not some random stock image stolen from a legitimate source.”
Kelso also suggested keeping track of shipping and using a credit card instead of a debit card.
“Getting strange demands for like gifts cards for payment, or even asking to be paid in crypto currency, that definitely should be a sign that you need to leave that website,” Kelso said. “If you are indeed scammed when purchasing baby formula, you’re more able to get your money back quickly with a credit card than you would with a debit card.”
If you don’t have a credit card, Kelso says you can use a prepaid credit card for online purchases.
Kelso says most importantly, people should stick with larger, well-known sites if possible, and be cautious when it comes to third party vendors.
“If you turn to reputable online retailers that have third part vendors, you need to be aware as well, because sometimes the vendors that are listed may be an actual criminal," Kelso said.
Dr. Kristin Sohl, president of the Missouri Chapter for the American Academy of Pediatricians, said your pediatrician is the best source to find formula outside of the internet.
“So, the WIC offices in all of our communities — that stands for Women, Infant and Children — those are also resources for those who may have less resources than others," Sohl said. "That’s going to be an important piece, they can be useful. Your health department can be useful as well as your pediatrician, primary physician, [and] primary care offices."
Sohl also says there are other alternatives like milk banks that might offer some sort of relief.
“So, these are moms that have donated breast milk and it’s been pasteurized, or gone through a process to make sure that it’s healthy," Sohl said. "So those are important things for us to think about too. Those are not for everybody and not every community has access to them.
Nonetheless, with families fighting to feed their babies, Sohl said it’s important to think about others in need.
“What am I going to do for the next 10 days to two weeks? We get it. Our tendency is to say, 'Oh, I found some,' and get it all," Sohl said. "And yet right now, given the crisis that we have with this supply chain, it’s really critical that we make sure we are not hoarding, because there are so many babies that need to be fed."