GA officials on the lookout for baby formula price gouging

Southeast

(NewsNation) — Concerned families have desperately searched store shelves, social media and store websites in an attempt to find food for their children amid a nationwide baby formula shortage.

Even when they find formula, parents may be facing a different problem: the Georgia Attorney General’s Office says they are keeping an eye out for potential instances of formula price gouging.

“Nothing is more important than a child’s health and well-being, and anyone artificially increasing the cost of formula on the backs of hardworking Georgians will be held accountable for their illegal actions,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said. “Our office will continue to support and protect Georgia’s families who are frustrated by empty store shelves and outrageous prices when they are simply trying to feed their children.”

Carr said parents across Georgia are frustrated and in need of help. He warned that some sellers may try to take advantage of the shortage by charging exorbitant prices or scammers may create fake websites or advertisements offering formula to steal money from families.

Carr urged parents to be careful when making online transactions with unfamiliar businesses. He said to be leery of ads for formula on social media and to make sure shopping is done through reputable, well-known sites. Shoppers may check a business’ rating or accreditation with the Better Business Bureau at this link.

Before buying, the organization says to search for the company name and the word “scam” on the internet to potentially find other complaints that are out there, make note of the website where the order is placed and take a screenshot of the item that has been purchased.

The BBB says signs of a potential online purchase scam include:

-Positive reviews on the website that have been copied from other sites or crafted by scammers.

-Grammatical mistakes, misspellings or other language that is inconsistent with baby formula.

-No indication of a brick-and-mortar address or the address on a Google map shows up as an unrelated building.

-The business advertises on social media and communicates until a payment is made but becomes unreachable once the payment clears.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a State of Emergency with the intentions of protecting parents from price gouging. The order, which is in effect until June 14, prohibits price gouging on baby formula products.

The declaration means that businesses in the Peach State may not charge more for baby formula than before the State of Emergency was issued unless increased prices reflect an accurate increase in the cost of new stock, transport and the store’s average application of markups.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office told NewsNation affiliate WSAV that most stores are playing by the rules, but that fines will be substantial for those who break them.

Those who violate Georgia’s price gouging statutes may be fined up to $5,000 per violation.

The Federal Trade Commission also cautioned parents to be on the lookout for scammers during the baby formula crisis, saying: “Scammers exploiting the high demand for baby formula have sunk to new lows. They’re popping up online and tricking desperate parents and caregivers into paying steep prices for formula that never arrives.”

The FTC advised parents to check out the company before buying, consider which payment option gives the strongest protection and know their rights when it comes to shipping delays.

The agency says a good move for struggling parents is to search for local resources or call a trusted pediatrician to see if they have formula or any samples in stock to help out.

Suspected online shopping fraud can be reported to:

-In Georgia, by calling 404-651-8600 or 800-869-1123.

-Better Business Bureau - file a complaint at BBB.org or report a scam at BBB.org/scamtracker. 

-Federal Trade Commission – file a complaint at reportfraud.ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-Help. 

-National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center - report intellectual property and counterfeiting violations to iprcenter.gov/referral/view. 

-Internet Crime Complaint Center  - file a complaint at ic3.gov/complaint. 

-Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre - file a report at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501. 

-Facebook – report ads that violate Facebooks policies by clicking the *** next to an ad to go to facebook.com/business/help. 

-Instagram - report copyright infringement or other policy violations at help.instagram.com. 

-Amazon – report suspicious activities and webpages at Amazon.com. 

-Google – report scams at 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 the fraud and request a refund. 

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