New York state offers baby formula assistance, warns of scams during shortage | Local News | Auburn, NY | Auburnpub.com

The Citizen staff

Officials in New York are working to help families amid a nationwide shortage of baby formula and are warning consumers to avoid getting scammed while trying to purchase products.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office on Thursday said that the state Department of Health continues to support the distribution of diapers, formula and other infant supplies through its home visiting program and partnership networks and that through the state WIC program is monitoring supply chain disruptions that may be impacting its participants.

According to a news release, the WIC program has been able to help participants obtain the formulas needed through alternate stores with the formulas in stock and coordinate with manufacturers to get formula to participants when they can not find it locally. New York WIC participants should contact their local agency for assistance locating products when needed.

Families with WIC should check the New York State Women, Infants and Children vendor site to find a list of WIC approved vendors who may have formula in stock, and families not in the program should go online to see if their infant is eligible for WIC benefits .

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Families are advised to call their OBGYN or the infant’s medical provider to see if they have in office samples or can suggest a similar formula that may be more readily available in stores that is nutritionally similar to meet the infant’s needs.

Following the FDA’s recommendation, the state said that families should not try to make formulas at home and caregivers should work with their child health care provider for recommendations on changing feeding practices, if needed.

Along with those efforts, the state Division of Consumer Protection this week advised consumers to be aware of unscrupulous practices from individuals using the baby formula shortages to scam desperate parents. These scams are typically rooted in online sales, and private sellers who are marketing cans for double the price knowing that big retailers have empty shelves and little information about when they may receive the next shipment.

“Parents, feeling the pressures of the shortage, may find themselves scrambling to find alternative solutions but in the end could end up being scammed by unscrupulous bad actors online,” Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a news release. “At a time when there is a national shortage of baby formula, it is imperative that parents and guardians be aware of scams and know how to spot illegitimate online sales.”

EXPLAINER: What's behind the baby formula shortage?

WASHINGTON (AP) – Many parents are hunting for infant formula after a combination of short- and long-term problems hit most of the biggest US…

The state is highlighting the following tips:

Safety check the product: Make sure the formula you are buying is not subject to a recall. Information on recent formula recalls can be found on the FDA website. Confirm the formula is new and still sealed in a tamper proof container. Check the expiration date.

Beware of social media: According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media with an ad, a post, or a message. If you receive a direct message with an offer to sell you formula or if you see formula for sale on an online marketplace, be especially cautious. Try to arrange for an in-person meeting, so you can be sure you receive the products you’re buying.

Use caution when shopping online: Shop on trusted sites with retailers known to you. Read the comments within any social media advertisements. This will help you assess what to expect if something goes wrong, and if the comments are turned off, that’s a big red flag.

Beware of fake websites: Fraudsters continue to advance in sophistication to perpetuate scams, fake websites resemble legitimate sites, with very credible-looking logos, pictures, and payment options. If the website is advertising unusually low prices, consumers should be wary and diligently verify the legitimacy of the seller.

Beware of third-party vendors: If redirected from a trusted site to a third-party site. Read the sellers policies, review ratings, and consumer comments, and most importantly, do a broad internet search before making your purchase.

Read the product specifications: Online marketing is geared to get you to buy so it is important to understand the product you are purchasing and the terms of the sale to ensure you are getting what you want. Is the brand and type of formula being sold what you are looking for? Is the size of the product you are buying the same as what you are expecting?

Use a credit card: For online purchases, be sure to use a credit card rather than a debit card. If the item that arrives is different than what you ordered or you do not receive the item at all, dispute the charge with your credit card provider.

Know your rights: The Federal Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise states that your order must be delivered within 30 days unless otherwise stated. If there is a delay, you must be notified. If the company cannot reach you to obtain your consent to the delay, they must, without being asked, promptly refund all the money you paid for the unshipped merchandise.

The Consumer Assistance Helpline (800) 697-1220 is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, and consumer complaints can be filed at any time at dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection.

The state said that the formula shortage is connected to a product recall. On Feb. 17, the US Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to use certain powdered infant formula products from Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan facility, and Abbott initiated a voluntary recall of certain products. Since that time, the Food and Drug Administration has been working with Abbott and other manufacturers to bring safe products to the US market and to increase the availability of infant and specialty formula products.

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