Tracking down the right baby formula these past few months hasn't been easy for Brooke Koslowski.
“When the recall happened, I actually had eight cans and seven of them that I had at home were all part of the recall," Koslowski said. "So in one day, I was down to my last and only can of formula and I didn’t know what to do."
Koslowski lives in Ashwaubenon with her 8-month-old daughter. Her child has taken Similac Sensitive since she was born, a formula Koslowski said she hasn't been able to find on store shelves.
“You never know when you’re going to run out," Koslowski said. "And especially with her drinking four or five bottles a day at 8 ounces, formula doesn’t last long anymore.”
Now, scammers are taking advantage of parents on the hunt for baby formula online.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the scammer will post online, usually through social media. They'll send a parent a direct message saying they have baby formula. Often times the scammer will include pictures of the cans. The caregiver will then send money through peer-to-peer platforms, like Venmo or PayPal, and never end up getting the formula.
Koslowski said the thought of someone exploiting her situation is extremely concerning.
"This is a serious issue, and you don't do that to any parent, especially because some parents cannot breastfeed," Koslowski said. "I was not able to with her. I try not to go on social media for that."
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The BBB said scammers will often take advantage of situations where emotions are running high.
"We always say that scammers know what's going on. They watch the news and they will do whatever it is to capitalize on what's going on," said Lisa Schiller, Wisconsin Better Business Bureau director of investigations and media relations.
So what can people do to avoid falling victim to this scam? The BBB offers the following tips:
- Investigate the website: Solely positive reviews can be a red flag.
- Look at the date the website was created: If the site began when the formula shortage started, it could be an online scam
- Misspellings, grammatical errors or other inconsistent language may point to a fraudulent site
- Be skeptical of messages from people you don't know who ask for questionable payment methods
“You don’t want to put yourself at risk to potential online scams, so you have to be really careful," Schiller said. "You have to really take a step back before moving forward with any type of offer of baby formula. Just know who you’re dealing with. Make sure that that person, that company is legitimate and they truly exist.”
During the shortage, Koslowski said her family has helped her find off-brand formula for the time being. She said that can be an option for some families in the same boat.
"Have other people check for you, like people that you actually know and talk to. Not just some random stranger that you come across on social media, because then you're probably going to get scammed," Koslowski said.
For those that are checking on social media, Koslowski suggests having the seller send a picture of the bottom of the can so parents can check the lot number before purchasing. Paying in-person can prevent someone from being scammed.
If this scam happened to you or someone you know, it can be reported on the BBB Scam Tracker.