Scammers targeting mothers looking for formula milk

The BBB’s advice is to go the extra mile to make sure an online profile claiming to sell formula milk is a real person.

DALLAS — Gabriela Perez’s struggle to find a formula for her son, Levi, began in March. Her baby’s formula is one of the brands that was recalled and pulled from shelves in February.

She said that in March she started posting on social media to see if anyone had seen her son’s formula. A friend in Georgia sent him some.

“We’re here now in May, and it’s only getting worse,” Perez said.

Perez’s best friend, Jennifer Mendez, stopped seeing her daughter’s formula on the shelves a few weeks ago.

“We found some and ordered some from Walgreens,” Mendez said. “My mom was going to pick it up because it was on the other side of Dallas, but they canceled the order.”

Both women said they used their social circles and even social media to try to find formula for their babies. They even found a Facebook group that connected mothers who needed certain formulas with people who could find them.

However, this group had members all over the country and often required expedition.

“How about we do one for DFW since we’re all locals,” Perez said.

The two worked with their friend, Adrianna Vasquez, to create the Formula fed babies DFW Facebook group. They made the group on Monday.

On Friday, more than 1,000 members posted the formulas they need, swapped photos of what they found, donated and sold.

The rules are simple: no excessive prices. No sale of samples (they are free).

“We just watch things like that where people try to take advantage of others in that situation,” Mendez said.

Community groups monitored like these are what Better Business Bureau Senior Regional Director Jason Meza called “the best-case scenario.”

“Every shortage…every opportunity that scammers can see in the headlines, they will create fake online calls…create fake websites to buy things,” Meza said.

He said the BBB had not received any formal complaints about specific companies or scams. He said if they’re reported, it’s likely to be to the specific websites or platforms where the interactions are happening.

“I know a lot of desperate mothers have their backs to the wall trying to locate this and due to supply, demand and tension, we’re seeing this happening,” Meza said.

Her advice is to go the extra mile to make sure an online profile claiming to sell formula milk is a real person.

“You’re going to see profiles popping up…a lot of them may be fake,” Meza said. “You really need to dig in. Investigate the profile. If the profile doesn’t have a lot of friends or networks or mum groups they’ve joined, more than likely it’s ‘a duplicate or hacked profile.’

He also said it was important to be careful about the method of payment requested. Methods that don’t allow you to get your money back if needed, like wire transfers or money-sending apps, aren’t recommended when working with someone you don’t know.

Meza said credit cards are best for online transactions because it’s easier to file a fraud complaint.

“We’re at a critical point because we’re not talking days or weeks, we’re talking hours, so we just want to get the word out so moms know what to look for,” Meza said.

He said the best option is to rely on communities, like DFW Formula Fed Babies, that take extra steps to protect members.

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