Your phone rings. It’s a potential birth mom. She saw your profile online and wants you to be her baby’s parents. And she’s due next week! Your heart races; your hopes soar. Could this be it? The last thing on your mind is the thought that this person may not even be pregnant. It never occurs to you that she is actually an experienced con artist trying to scam hopeful couples out of gifts and money. Unfortunately, adoption scams do sometimes happen. Here’s what happened to us, and what you can do to protect yourselves.
During the adoption process, a 19-year-old woman from Texas contacted us. She seemed very sweet and eager to find parents for her son, who was due to be born any day. She described her life situation and her concerns. She was even emotional on the phone and I helped to comfort her and ease her fears. I gave her our adoption agency’s number but she seemed hesitant. She also said she wasn’t working with an adoption professional yet. But she claimed she was sure we were the right parents for her child.
A couple of days later, she called me at 6:00 a.m., frantic and crying. She said she had just spent the night in the emergency room and didn’t have the money to pay for her diabetes medications. She asked if we would help her. My heart went out to her and naturally I agreed to help. I told her she needed to contact our agency first, and they would arrange everything. She then called our social worker with the same story. Our worker told her she needed to get an attorney involved. She claimed she had found one and that he would call the office.
The attorney did call our agency. But after he spoke with the adoption agency director, something didn’t seem right. He was unknowledgeable about interstate adoptions. He didn’t seem to have a good understanding of what needed to happen next. Our agency got the feeling that something was fishy. At that point, I got online and posted a message at an adoption forum. I asked if anyone had been contacted by a woman from that particular town in Texas. And that’s when the truth came out. I received private messages from several waiting couples. Someone from that town had indeed contacted them, only for each couple her name was different. These potential adoptive parents also shared her cell phone number with me, which was an exact match for the one this woman had given me. Some of these couples had actually sent money to this woman. And then she just stopped calling them. Luckily, this con artist was eventually caught and went to jail for her crimes. However, the families she scammed were left heart-broken.
We never expected to have this experience during our already difficult wait to become parents. But we did learn a few things: always be cautious, trust our instincts, and approach each adoption situation objectively. Most importantly, we learned these valuable tips for protecting ourselves from adoption scams:
1) Never give money directly to a potential birth mom. For your protection, all funds should be coordinated and distributed through a licensed adoption agency or attorney. It’s perfectly normal to want to help someone in need. But if you give a woman money and no paperwork or professional is involved, she could just disappear.
2) If a potential birth mother is interested in you, answer her questions thoroughly and honestly. Feel free to ask her questions as well, so you can get to know each other better. Then suggest she speak with your adoption agency or attorney. Let her know that they can help explain the adoption process and answer any additional questions or concerns she might have. If she is legitimate and really serious about adoption, then she will want to contact a professional. Those individuals who seem hesitant or avoid getting in touch with your agency are either uncertain of their decision or may just be trying to get money from you.
3) Communicate regularly with your adoption agency or attorney. Let them know about any potential leads, meetings, or requests. They are experienced in helping you to navigate the adoption process and can recognize when something seems fishy.
4) Whenever possible, try to meet in person with a potential birth mother. This can be scheduled through your agency or attorney or on your own. A meeting is a great way to get to know each other better and find out if the situation is a good match. You can also get a sense of how serious this person is about adoption.
5) Join online support groups and share your experiences. Often when there is an adoption scam, other waiting couples have been victims of the same scam. By sharing information, you can stay informed and help protect each other.
As you know, adoption is a very complex and emotional process. Following these suggestions can help to prevent additional stress and ensure that your experience is a positive one.