RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Scammers have sunk to a new low, defrauding parents who are trying to feed their children. 

The Federal Trade Commission warns scammers are exploiting the high demand and short supply of baby formula.  

While there’s a shortage of baby formula, there’s no shortage of scammers using the situation to line their pockets. 

Here’s how it works: the scammers post photos of legitimate products offering them to desperate parents. 

Parents then send a cash payment but when it comes time to get the product, it’s a phantom– not physically available and you’ve lost your money. 

“We’ve been seeing complaints come in from different people across the country. In both the United States and Canada,” said the Better Business Bureau’s Tony Binkley. 

The scammers are clever. Many times, they use legit online shopping platforms to pretend they have formula. 

However, some scammers go one step further.  

“They’re contacting moms on social media showing pictures of baby formula that they say they have,” said Mechele Mills of Better Business Bureau. “It’s really just a stock photo they swiped off someone else’s page online.  

It’s so widespread that the Federal Trade Commission has issued an alert, warning the public that criminals are creating “fake websites using product images and logos of household-name formula brands, all to make you think you’re buying products from the company’s official website.”   

“Because of the level of desperation mothers are in, they may be willing to pay whatever– just to have the formula,” said Mills. 

The red flags indicating the website offer for baby formula deals are:  

  • The website doesn’t list a physical address for the place selling the formula  
  • The seller wants payment by gift card or wire transfer  

To avoid being scammed, you should do an internet search with the name of the seller– using terms like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”  

If you’re in need of formula try checking with your local Women’s Infants and Children’s program to find what you need. 

In North Carolina, the individual counties run the WIC programs in their area with oversite by the NCDHHS.  

Another way to try and find formula is to talk to your pediatrician. Many of them have been able to help because they have resources to help you find where formula may be available. 

One word of caution: You should never dilute your formula to make it last longer. That robs your baby of the nutritional value of the formula.