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FTC warns baby-formula scammers are ‘exploiting’ family fears over shortage, says they have ‘sunk to new lows’

Be wary of baby-formula scam artists, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

“Scammers exploiting the high demand for baby formula have sunk to new lows,” the FTC warned. “They’re popping up online and tricking desperate parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives.”

The FTC cautioned parents desperate for formula to think twice before buying from unfamiliar sources. “Scammers may set up fake websites or profiles on social media platforms with product images and logos of well-known formula brands — all to make you think you’re buying products from the companies’ official websites,” the agency said.

Abbott Laboratories recalled several baby-formula products in February due to contamination fears. The company announced Monday that it had signed a consent decree with the Food and Drug Administration that details the steps necessary to resume production at the company’s Sturgis, Mich., plant.

Once the FDA confirms that Abbott has taken the initial steps outlined, Abbott expects to have the plant up and running in about two weeks, and formula should hit store shelves six to eight weeks after that. But that still leaves many families scrambling for formula in the early, critical months of a baby’s life.

The FTC asked consumers to report scams here and to follow these steps:

  • Check out the company or product by typing its name in a search engine with terms like ‘review,’ ‘complaint,’ or ‘scam.’”

  • Consider how you pay. Credit cards often give you the strongest protections, so you can sometimes get your money back if you ordered something but didn’t get it.”

  • When you shop online, sellers are supposed to ship your order within the time stated in their ads, or within 30 days if the ads don’t give a time.”

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However, as MarketWatch reported Wednesday, many low-income families were having trouble accessing formula via the government’s WIC program, while others were struggling to even qualify for the program.

“Nobody is helping you. You call the doctor’s office for your son, and they can’t help you,” 29-year-old Kathleen Ariel of Willington, Conn., a first-time mom to a 5-month-old, told MarketWatch. “You call WIC, and they can’t help you, and even though it says on the news to call your doctor’s office, they don’t help.”

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