This story originally appeared on NBCSanDiego.com
The baby-formula shortage is affecting families all over the country. Now scammers, who can be very effective when a parent is desperately trying to feed their child, are using it to take advantage of families.
"This is happening now," said Viridiana Quintana of the Better Business Bureau.
Quintana said the BBB's scam tracker has seen a rising number of formula-related reports across the U.S. In many cases, these reports refer to websites that seemed legitimate, but they never sent out purchased formula.
"We've seen a lot of posts where scammers are saying they have a local business where they have the product," Quintana said. "Maybe they have a fake page, they might even have reviews, and reviews that are too good to be true."
Because of the fake online storefronts, it's important to closely inspect any third-party website, especially if it's trying to pressure you into a quick sale.
"Research that business," Quintana said. "Look at the page of the person who made that post."
Sometimes there are immediate red flags, like being asked for a strange form of payment, such as gift cards or cryptocurrency, or being asked to pay before coordinating a pickup location.
The BBB said that, if you do shop online, you should also use a credit card, because there are more scam protections built in.
While shipments of baby formula are arriving under President Biden's Operation Fly Formula, it's likely shelves will still stay empty for weeks. That's not helpful for families who need the formula now.
Teresa Hardisty, a pediatrician at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego, said making your own formula, watering down what you have or switching to cow's milk can be dangerous. She also said most babies can start eating solid foods when they are between 4- to 6-months-old.
Finally, if you need formula now, Hardisty recommends going directly to baby stores, checking manufacturer's websites or contacting your pediatrician, who may have samples to share.
"We just want parents to be careful, because we don't want them dealing with a scammer when they're just trying to find a product that they need," said the Better Business Bureau's Quintana.