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Better Business Bureau says scammers targeting parents amid baby formula shortage

Consumer advocates say scammers are trying to take advantage of parents who are trying to find formula to feed their children.

INDIANAPOLIS — When there’s a shortage of anything that people are desperate to get their hands on, the Better Business Bureau says you can be sure scammers aren’t far behind

“It takes a village,” said Katie Foley, the mother of an 11-month-old baby girl. 

Foley recently created a village, of sorts, on Facebook for moms in Indiana seeking help finding baby formula during the ongoing shortage across the country. 

“We need help," she said. "We need support. We are desperate.”

That’s just the kind of situation the BBB says is ripe for scammers trying to take advantage of parents who are trying to find formula to feed their children. 

According to the 2021 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, online shopping scams are the riskiest. 

“They’re very good about keeping up with the times to make their claims seem that much more realistic, because they want to get your guard down because it’s easier for them to fool you in these situations,” said the BBB's Jennifer Adamany.

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According to Adamany, the BBB hasn’t received any reports of families getting scammed in Indiana. 

“It’s not to say it’s not happening, but it just hasn’t been reported, according to our sources,” Adamany explained. 

RELATED: 'It's terrifying' | Fishers mom in desperate search for baby formula

Still, it is happening with scammers advertising online and social media, claiming they have formula and encouraging potential buyers to get in touch with them. 

“Then they’ll have the buyer make a payment through a peer-to-peer platform, so that could be PayPal, Venmo, and when they send it, the formula never arrives,” said Adamany. 

The BBB says you should look out for as warning signs that something isn’t right, such as positive reviews on a website that have been copied from other sites, no address attached to a brick-and-mortar store or an address that shows up on Google Maps as a parking lot, residence or unrelated business. 

The organization suggests misspellings or grammatical errors in an ad or post can also be a warning sign, as well as a seller who’s in contact on social media until they get your payment, then become unreachable. 

“Anytime you’re going to make an online purchase, research the business,” Adamany advised. 

If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, the BBB advises it’s best to use a credit card. 

“It’s easier to dispute that charge if it ends up being fraudulent,” said Adamany. 

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