An adoption scam or fraud is when someone posing as a birth mother (or adoption professional) tells you that, with a payment, you can adopt a particular child. Sometimes, those posing as pregnant women considering adoption commit adoption scams for emotional reasons.
These scammers may seek attention and friendship by sharing that they will place their baby for adoption. Or, they might just be in it for the money. What an adoption scam is NOT is a birth mother changing her mind about her decision. Adoption is a matter of the heart, so know that her mind may change after she meets her baby.
Lifetime Adoption wants to help you avoid the heartbreak of an adoption scam. We’ve been proven to keep adoption frauds and scams at bay before they even start. At Lifetime, we know that more education and awareness about adoption have proven to stop adoption scams and frauds before they occur. I know how emotional adoption can be, and keeping adoptive parents safe is key to our success.
Lifetime’s adoption professionals thoroughly screen potential birth mothers who contact us. The screening services Lifetime provides show the beauty of working with an adoption professional: we shield you by performing a pre-screen on all adoption situations. However, if you’re working on your own towards an adoption, you may be opening yourself (and your hearts) up to adoption scams. Our adoption experts have decades of experience sniffing out what might be a scam.
So what can potential adoptive parents do to avoid scams? Keep reading to learn the five warning signs of scam, as well as five tips you can use to avoid being scammed!
5 Warning Signs of an Adoption Scam
1. Adoption Situations from Overseas
Hopeful adoptive couples with online profiles or advertising may get contacted about an adoption situation from a foreign country. In the message, they request money to help with travel costs or to move the adoption along. The story sounds desperate but often is a complete fraud.
2. Twins or Multiples
The adoption of twins or triplets seems perfect – you can complete your family with just one adoption! This is why it works well as an adoption scam. But, the “birth mother” usually will not want to speak with your adoption professional or attorney.
My words of advice? In my experience, I have seen many scams like this that involved doctored ultrasound images, ultrasound images that were purchased online, or medical records that were completely made at home! So don’t just believe an ultrasound photo, especially if it does not have the patient’s name on it – that is a dead giveaway!
3. Urgent Need for Money
People posing as birth parents tell you they need money immediately, often threatening to call another family if you don’t comply.
Avoid providing money unless it is with the permission of your attorney and adoption professional. And, when possible, pay the expenses directly to the vendor, such as the electric company or landlord.
4. Offers of a Step-Parent Adoption
Sometimes a birth mother will offer to put your husband’s name on the birth certificate, and then you can do a step-parent adoption. She tells you she wants to do it this way to save your family money. After all, you wouldn’t need a home study, a lawyer, or even worry about interstate compact if the adoption crosses state lines.
This is risky business! If the birth mother changes her mind, she has a birth certificate with his name and signature that she can then take to court and demand child support. To fight it, he has to admit he lied when signing the document. Needless to say, this is not a shortcut to anything.
5. Already Matched But Wants You
When a birth parent is matched with a family, they owe it to the family to let them know they will not be moving forward. Many times a birth parent winds up taking money from the first family, and when it runs out, says she is going to parent and then moves on to new prey.
When Lifetime gets an inquiry like this, we ask questions like, “What is different about this new family?”, “Have you told the original family?” and “Have you accepted money from the first family?” Remember, if she left them, she could leave you too!
5 Tips to Avoid an Adoption Scams
1. Use 800 numbers on your website, profile, and video, or list your attorney’s or agency’s number.
When you avoid listing your personal phone number, you’re protecting your privacy. It will also keep most scammers from contacting you. They won’t want to talk to an attorney.
2. Be cautious when a birth mother contacts you on social media.
Most birth mothers use an agency to find adoptive parents for their children. Very few are emotionally ready at a time of crisis in their lives to go online and look for potential parents themselves. They feel afraid and alone. Most go with an agency because of the support available.
Knowing this fact, avoid going on social media and posting something like, “I am looking for a birth mother.” Or, “Are there any expecting girls here?” Scammers will take advantage of this situation. If an expectant mother does contact you through your social media networking efforts, make sure to run the situation by your adoption professional.
3. NEVER send money without speaking to your adoption professional first.
You may receive an urgent email from someone posing as a birth mother asking for thousands of dollars to adopt her baby. She may threaten to call another adoption family if you don’t act immediately. Never give money to anyone unless it’s with your adoption attorney or an adoption professional’s permission.
4. Network with others in the adoption community.
Once you’ve made contact with a birth parent, reach out to the community on social media, blogs, message boards, and online communities. These are a few places where you can find other adoptive families. Tell them about the person who has contacted you and share your stories. Just recently, a scam artist was caught this way.
5. Contact your agency or attorney as soon as possible.
If you have been contacted and feel that the birth mother is real, tell your agency/attorney all the information you have. Then, ask her to get in contact with your agency or attorney. Make sure to do this before you spend hundreds on phone bills or invest in planning anything.
Lifetime’s Services for Expectant Mothers
Our adoption professionals know that a birth mother should receive counseling and support as early as possible. That way, she can take a long look at her options. Doing so will make her more confident in her decision.
If she didn’t receive enough info or support during her pregnancy, she could have issues when it comes to an adoption match. Lifetime provides all birth mothers with third-party counseling, free of charge. We also have peer counselors available to her. These are women who have made an adoption plan for their children. If a birth mother is not ready for the emotions to come, she could end up having second thoughts about her decision to place.
Protecting You from an Adoption Scam
One of the initial reasons I founded Lifetime Adoption and started helping hopeful adoptive parents and birth mothers in 1986 was to assist in exposing adoption scams. I went on the radio to share questions hopeful parents could ask each adoption professional and wrote a newsletter with tips on spotting scams. For example, one adoption scam was an attorney asking for $2,000 just to present an adoption profile to an expectant mother.
Come to find out, they were presented with ten other couples. And often, if the attorney didn’t meet the birth mother, she might have skipped out. The attorney kept the money, and the family was tied to him for that money, or they lost it. I felt this was sad, so I really advocated for the adoptive parents to watch out and save money.
I’ve always been passionate about helping people, so I met with women posing as birth mothers scamming for money. From there, I set up “stings” with the adoptive couple near when the woman was expecting money. Often, she was just chubby and not pregnant. They used to call me the “Better Business Bureau of Adoptions” because of all the work I was doing helping prevent scams. I’ve helped put three scammers behind bars. We had pagers back then, no Venmo or method to check background.
If you have already been victims of an adoption scam, don’t give up! There is a child for you, and the road to find them continues. Now is the time to make sure you’re working with an adoption professional who will aid you in evading a similar mistake in the future.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 25, 2016, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”