Many hopeful adoptive families worry about becoming the target of an adoption scam. The majority of birth mothers are honest and choosing adoption in the best interest of their child. However, some people take advantage of couples hoping to adopt. Although adoption scams are rare, you should be aware of them if you decide to pursue a domestic infant adoption.
An adoption scam occurs when hopeful adoptive parents are contacted by someone pretending to be a birth mother. In reality, this woman has no proof of pregnancy and doesn’t have any intention of actually making an adoption plan. An adoption scammer usually requests financial support and disappears after the adoptive couple has given her what she wants. The couple ends up with a broken heart, and cannot recoup the money sent to the scam artist.
Keep reading to learn about common “red flags” which may indicate you’re talking with an adoption scammer. By being fully informed of these indicators of adoption scams, you can avoid falling victim to them!
5 Tips to Avoid Adoption Scams:
1. Requests for Money
Never give funds of any kind to a birth parent unless an adoption professional has approved it. Many states have legal limits on the amount of money that can be given to birth mothers. It’s common for an adoption scam to involve someone trying to take your money. Here are a few examples of this type of scam that we have come in contact with:
A scammer may contact you on a holiday, weekend or late at night needing money immediately for food, housing or car repairs. This type of “crisis call” is geared to catch you off guard. Please direct the birth parents to call Lifetime. We will connect the birth parents to an emergency referral.
A woman posing as a birth mother offers to bring a baby to you contingent upon a plane ticket or money for a plane or bus fare. This is a typical ploy to take your money. Even if the situation is legitimate, some states do not allow this type of assistance. Do not take chances. Contact your Coordinator at Lifetime before providing transportation for anyone.
2. Refusal to Provide Prenatal Records
Remember: a photo from a birth mother does not confirm her pregnancy or her intentions. Do not accept faxed or emailed “proof of pregnancy” or a sonogram picture. Lifetime will confirm the pregnancy directly with the healthcare provider with a legal release of information.
3. Outrageous Stories
Some scam situations have nothing to do with money. We refer to these as emotional scams. Make sure to use caution if you hear an outrageous story!
Emotional scams are usually accompanied by an extreme crisis, complex emotional states and/or emergency medical emotional issues. A birth parent may keep you on the phone for several hours at a time or send you dozens of texts a day. Stories may be very sad and include rape and incest or involved stories of their own adoption. This type of scam involves your emotions, heart and time. Be sensitive, but make sure to refer her to Lifetime for professional counseling and support rather than trying to provide it on your own.
4. Doesn’t Want Adoption Professionals Involved
A birth parent may request that your adoption professional remains uninvolved with the adoption due to a negative relationship with the staff or a past bad experience with an adoption agency. This is a red flag: a scammer will refuse to talk to a professional counselor for fear of being “discovered.” We’ve found that many scammers won’t talk with our Coordinators because they’re fearful of being caught. Remember, with Lifetime’s professional support and guidance, you will have a safe and successful adoption.
A birth parent may state that she’s choosing you at the last minute because a family or agency that she has been working with recently rejected her. This is often a tactic used to get you to move quickly and provide financial support. While it may be true that she has recently ceased working with an adoptive family or agency, the disruption most likely occurred for a valid reason. It may be that she demanded money shortly before the birth or after delivery, or the agency may have asked too many questions in an attempt to verify her situation.
5. Only Interested in One Spouse
You may encounter a potential birth parent who shows an extreme amount of interest in your spouse, including wanting to only speak with him/her or wanting to know intimate facts about that person. This is not normal. Do not allow a birth parent to manipulate the situation. Refer them to Lifetime Adoption Agency.
Lifetime Adoption Guards Against Adoption Scams
Lifetime’s staff of adoption experts are able to shut down a scammer’s activities within 24 hours. It’s our goal to protect you from any potential adoption scams, and stop the scamming process before you lose money or get hurt emotionally.
The Birth Mother Coordinators at Lifetime speak to hundreds of potential birth parents each year. This experience enables our team to recognize “red flags,” sometimes within minutes of speaking with someone. While it is essential to be open and receptive to any potential birth parent that contacts you, it’s smart to allow the staff at Lifetime Adoption Agency to assess the situation objectively and thoroughly. Remember to call Lifetime whenever a potential birth parent contacts you.
In addition, Lifetime Adoption provides hopeful adoptive parents with lots of educational information, including how to avoid adoption scams. We also have adoption specialists trained to spot scams and stop them. We protect our adoptive families from frauds and scams by mediating conversations and safeguarding you throughout the process.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 16, 2018, and has since been updated.
Linda Rotz, CWCM-S, CWCM-Trainer, ACC, is the Director of Adoption Services at Lifetime. Linda has worked in the field of adoption for 20 years within the child welfare/foster care system in Florida. She has degrees in Mass Communications and Human Development, and completed graduate studies in social work.
Due to her extensive expertise, Linda was called upon to write adoption procedures and training materials in Florida. She is certified as an Adoption Specialist, Child Welfare Case Manager Supervisor and Child Welfare Trainer in the state of Florida.