Luckily adoption scams are rare, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. With the Internet, it seems that adoption scams are easier to pull off, making them more and more common. While you shouldn’t let the fear of a scam stop you from proceeding in your adoption journey, you should be aware of, and on the lookout for, a few key indicators.
Understand the types of scammers out there.
There are a few different scenarios for a “portrait of a scammer.” Usually it is a woman who is actually pregnant who is working with several different hopeful adoptive parents. She is looking for living expenses, medical treatment, and emotional attachment. Another type of scam involves an allegedly pregnant woman who is not actually pregnant and is trying to exploit people for money or emotional bonding. She preys on a couple’s hopes and dreams of building a family and takes advantage of their love, generosity, and pocketbook. Lastly, there are people who will impersonate an Adoption Service Provider and share the details of one pregnancy with many couples to procure their fees, but when the placement suddenly “falls through,” fees are non-refundable.
Use an agency or legal counsel.
An agency or lawyer that you have hired and trust to act as your liaison can help reduce the risk of scams. Never exchange money or personal information without first having representation. All money should go through a 3rd party and be verified as a legal living cost expense. What qualifies as legal varies from state to state.
Get proof of pregnancy.
An ultrasound and baby bump are not proof of pregnancy. These things can be forged. Have your lawyer/agency acquire authorization to obtain medical records and pregnancy-related information for proof of pregnancy and medical history.
Be wary if she wants you to do it all “her way.”
If she suggests you use her lawyer or asks you to avoid agencies, it could be a sign that she’s not being honest. She may enlist the help of others to solidify her lies. They could be family, friends, or sometimes even fake adoption or medical professionals. Just because you found a profile for a person on Facebook, does not mean they are a real person. Be aware.
Consider background checks.
You can run background checks on an individual. It is relatively easy and inexpensive. Check the standing of a lawyer or agency with the Better Business Bureau or other online reference resources. Checking for personal references is a great place to start.
Do a database search.
Yahoo groups, Facebook, and even a Google search can reveal repeat scammers. They may have used the name--or pictures of sonograms or themselves--before. You can search using the name, phone number, IP address, or even drag-and-drop pictures they sent you to the search bar. Checking these groups when you have that “feeling” is a good method of research.
Often if you are a member of a group like Parent Profiles, you can communicate directly with other hopeful adoptive parents. You can ask around to see if the story sounds familiar. Sometimes the woman posing as an expectant mother with an adoption plan has pitched her story to several families at once in the same community.
Watch out for people who are always in crisis.
A red flag that can often be a common theme in adoption scams is that the expectant mom is always in some sort of crisis. Whether she is in need of money right now to keep her phone or water on, is going to lose her housing, or had a fight with her boyfriend or parent, there is always some crisis day to day or week to week. It can be emotionally and financially draining if you allow it to continue. Know your limits. Know what is legally and ethically acceptable. You can deter her from coming to you for these things by offering suggestions for her to help herself. Often if it is a scam, she will tire of you referring her to the lawyer, counselor, social worker, or agency.
Make face-to-face contact.
Ask for personal contact information. If you can’t meet directly with her, hire a lawyer in her area (to act on her behalf) who will have face-to-face interactions with her. Request a meeting with the agency or lawyer you hire to facilitate the process. Constant excuses and delaying or canceling meetings is another scam indicator.
Trust your gut.
If it seems too good to be true, it just might be. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed at all. But advance with your eyes wide open; caution is advised. If her story is showing gaping holes or continues to change, trust your instincts.
As hopeful adoptive parents, it is our job to not let our emotions get the best of us. We need to keep our head on straight and remember that adoptions must be procured ethically and legally. No shortcuts. Adoption is an emotional roller coaster. Don’t let your immense desire to become parents mislead you into a scam.
If you find you are the victim of an adoption scam, here are the steps you should take:Stop all payments and cancel any outstanding checks.
Contact the local authorities.
Contact your lawyer.
Notify the adoption board administrator where your profile is posted.
AUTHOR: Sarah Baker