A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Adoption Scammers: What You Can Do To Avoid Falling Prey

Our family photo when trying to adopt #3.
In 2005, my husband and I pushed full steam ahead on adopting a 3rd time and were approved on April 6th. Our first two adoptions came about because of being proactive. Our efforts were put forth and then the Lord blessed our efforts and created miracles. We felt we had “our” formula for success and we knew there wasn’t anyone else on this earth who cared more about finding our 3rd child than us.

We were aggressive from the beginning going above and beyond what most would do (back then) to get the word out. For us this included internet connections like ParentProfiles. We had 17+ contacts total in 3 months. Out of all 17 contacts only 2 were proved legitimate.

Brad and I learned a great deal from our experiences with the internet while trying to adopt. But there was one particular scammer who taught us more than I wished we needed to learn. She (or he) called herself “Tatum” and for 6 weeks we thought we found the dream birth mother.

She said all the right things, made us feel really good, said she was willing to go with our agency, and she even looked a lot like our oldest daughter’s birth mother. In the end she was all a lie. Even the pictures were stolen off other peoples websites.

We were left questioning everything and felt violated and scared. We stopped trusting what anyone said to us - even family. We worried that we had compromised our personal and financial security even when no money was ever given or even spoken of.

I want to share with you what we learned as we went through this internet journey in hopes that you will NEVER have to experience the pain that follows this type of deceit. I want you to be armed with the knowledge that we didn’t have so that you can boot the scammer before they get to you.

Facts about Internet Adoption Scammers:
  • They are good at playing make believe. No one is immune to being deceived.
  • They aren’t always in it for money. Some like to be what we call “emotional terrorists.”
  • You can get hit by the same scammer over and over again - same person, different name and story.
  • Scammers are working more than one couple at a time, usually many at one time.
Once you understand how scammers work they are easier to spot.

Don’t send money and don’t get emotionally attached until the person, pregnancy and intention towards adoption have been proven by your worker, agency and/or lawyer.

Don’t plan a meeting with this person until they have proven themselves to your worker, agency and/or lawyer….and it needs to be in person.

Tips for screening contact information:
  • Search out her contact name using Google (e.g. JaneDoe@yahoo.com…type in“Jane Doe” on Google). If the expectant parent is using a different name while chatting with an Instant Messenger program, perform a Google search on this name as well. If you are dealing with a scammer, you may find that they have posted information on other Web sites.
  • If your contact has sent you pictures, right click on the picture and obtain the picture’s file name. Take the file name and perform an “Image” Google search. Some scammers steal pictures off of other Web pages and then send them to adoptive couples claiming the picture as their own. Be very cautious when you use this screening technique as searching some contact images may lead to Web sites that are pornographic in nature.
  • Some adoptive couples have visited online forums such as the “adoptionscams” Yahoo group. Couples who have encountered a contact that turned out to be a scammer post this information on these forums. Building a networking relationship with other online adoptive couples can be valuable in detecting fraudulent contacts who claim to be expectant parents. Always exercise caution when networking online as information you receive may not always be accurate.
  • A contact may give you a cellular or residential telephone number. The Internet has many Web sites where you can verify a contact’s telephone number. This is called a “reverse look-up” and allows you to type in a contact’s cellular or residential phone to ensure it matches up with the name. Some sites are free while others require payment for use.
  • Verifying a contact person’s state or city is important when screening expectant parents. Web sites such as switchboard.com allow you to search by name or telephone number.
  • Check social networking sites like facebook, myspace and twitter.
  • The best tool to use is your worker, lawyer or agency. When they meet with the expectant parent they can verify information and pregnancy status.

Don’t ignore the red flags:
  • The birth mom wants to bring the baby to you. She may say this to get you to buy a plane ticket for her that she can cash in later. Most true birth mothers want you to come to them.
  • She claims to be pregnant with twins or multiples.
  • She doesn’t seem sad about placing, only happy for you.
  • They want to spend hours talking to you online.
  • The expectant parent is not available by phone or the address is not verifiable.
  • She does not provide proof of pregnancy or other requested documents. She seems to always have a reason for not sending you identifying information. She may have a sudden miscarriage or hospitalization when you ask for too much information.
  • She does not want you to contact anyone else concerning her pregnancy. She will not give you real names or numbers of doctors.

  • Due to your strong desire for a baby, you may be vulnerable to online scams and unreasonable requests that are not in your best interest.
  • Always choose an ethical path for your adoption, which is not necessarily the shortest or easiest path.
  • Protect your privacy. In online profiles, don’t mention your employer, salary, home or work phone numbers. Invite expectant parents to call your adoption cell phone number if you are in possession of one.
  • Don’t make a hasty decision, no matter how anxious you are for a child. Don’t over-commit to anyone until your caseworker has had time to check out the situation.
  • Money should only be given through the agency/lawyer. Do not give money directly to an expectant parent.
  • Be cautious with anyone who contacts you directly and prefers to work only through you. An expectant parent who is sincere about adoption will provide you with specific contact information and should respect your request to talk with your caseworker.
  • Don’t believe anything until it has been verified. If they say they called your worker or the agency near their location call your worker and ask them to verify the call.
Our family today.
  • Miracles do happen, so don’t give up and don’t let the scammers win!

For more information you can go here and listen to "Creating A Family" radio show where I was interviewed along with an adoption attorney about this topic.
- Brenda Horrocks, United for Adoption Co-Chair

Have you been affected by a scammer? We'd love to hear from you. 
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