Northeast Ohio moms trade, donate and sell baby formula online despite shortage

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) — Now there are scam warnings, high prices and empty shelves, all because of the national formula shortage.

It’s a wild world right now for parents looking for food for their babies.

Some moms swap formulas.

Some parents sell leftover food from a child who no longer needs it.

We wondered if everything was legal? And could it be dangerous?

This Friday is the half birthday of Benjamin Lindeman, 6 months.

Benjamin’s mother, Christine, expected challenges as a first-time mother.

“But I never thought that not being able to find what he needed would be one of those challenges,” she said.

She is part of a group of breastfeeding mothers online. It has now become a place to turn for local mums who not only struggle to produce milk, but also to buy it.

“It was really difficult to find the formula that he would tolerate,” she said. “We tried four different types of formulas. I started seeing more pictures of ‘hey I have this type of formula. I live here. If anyone needs a porch pickup, it’s free.

In an act of pure kindness, Lindeman says another mom gave her a few boxes of Similac Pro Advance formula to get her a few more days without having to go through a painful formula change again.

“It meant a lot that a mother could think of someone else and make it so easy to feed my baby. It meant a lot,” she said almost in tears.

Especially because she knows other people don’t part with formula so easily.

Naturally, some parents try to recoup the cost of a box they no longer need.

And as we found out, the state attorney general said…it’s okay.

“Sure. If you own your formula, you can give it to your sister or your neighbor. It’s like borrowing an egg or a cup of sugar,” attorney Dave Yost said.

Other moms from various Facebook groups have told 19 Investigates about the ongoing maneuvers and deals.

We have seen it too.

Expectant mothers generally receive free samples by mail or from doctors’ surgeries.

A simple Facebook search shows that some people are selling sample formula cans.

But as you can imagine, there is a risk involved in buying these.

“I would be worried about buying hand to hand from a stranger whether the formula is pure or not,” Yost said.

Regarding price gouging, the attorney general says Ohio does not have a price gouging law.

This makes it difficult to prosecute unless an increase is simply incredibly outrageous.

His office says he did, however, take at least one consumer report on price gouging related to the formula this month.

Another thing to watch out for – our Cuyahoga County Scam Squad partners say some sellers may not even be real.

Just this week, the Better Business Bureau issued a scam warning related to formula shortages.

Apparently the scammers are messaging desperate moms, showing them pictures of cans they say they have available.

Then, after a mother sends a payment via Venmo or Paypal, no formula ever appears.

Here are the tips from the BBB:

Check the website before making a purchase:

  • Visit BBB.org to check a company’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Imposters are known to copy the BBB seal. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB profile on BBB.org – check the domain of the URL.
  • Do an Internet search with the name of the company and the word “scam”. This can locate other complaints about the site.
  • Note the website where the order is placed. Take a screenshot of the item ordered, in case the website goes down or a different item than advertised is received in the mail.
  • Credit cards often offer better protection against fraud than other payment methods.
  • Think before you click. Pay particular attention to email solicitations and online advertisements on social media sites.

Report suspected online shopping fraud to:

  • Better Business Bureau– file a complaint on BBB.org or report a scam on BBB.org/scamtracker.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)– File a complaint at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-Help.
  • National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center– report intellectual property violations and infringement at iprcenter.gov/referral/view.
  • Internet Crime Complaint Entry (IC3)– file a complaint at ic3.gov/complaint.
  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Center– file a report at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.
  • Facebook– report ads that violate Facebook policies by clicking the *** next to an ad to go to facebook.com/business/help.
  • instagram– report copyright infringement or other policy violations on help.instagram.com.
  • Amazon– report suspicious activity and web pages on Amazon.com.
  • Google– report scams on Google.com.
  • PayPal– call (888) 221-1161 to speak with a live person instead of using an automated system if you receive an item that is not as advertised.
  • credit card company– Call the phone number on the back of the credit card to report fraud and request a refund.

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