guest blogger on adoption scams: brenda

brenda is an adoptive mom. she also is the vice co-chair on the national board of Families Supporting Adoption.
you can read brenda’s blog here.
Adoption Scammers:
What you can do to avoid falling prey.
In 2005, we 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 the internet and with the new LDSFS connection to ParentProfiles, we took the opportunity when it was presented to us. We had 17+ contacts total in 3 months. In those 3 months we came to understand that while most people are good and honest, there is evil lurking to torment those with righteous desires. Out of all 17 contacts only 2 were proved legitimate.
One chose us very early in pregnancy but then decided to parent after giving birth. The other is our oldest son’s Birth Mother and she was the light at the end of a very long tunnel! 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 LDSFS 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 untrue and stolen off other peoples websites.
We were left questioning everything and felt very 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. The question of “Did we share anything that would allow this evil to find us….damage us?” seemed to loom.
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“JaneDoe” on Google). If the birth mother 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 informationon 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 toadoptive 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 sitesthat 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 scammay post this information on these forums. Building a networking relationship withother online adoptive couples can be valuable in detecting fraudulent contacts who claim to be birth 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 birthmothers. 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 birth 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 planeticket 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 multipules.
  • She doesn’t seem sad about placing…only happy for you.
  • They want to spend hours talking to you online.
  • The birth mom 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.

Remember…

  • Due to your strong desire for a baby, you may be vulnerable to online scams andunreasonable requests that are not in your best interest.
  • Always choose an ethical path for your adoption, which is not necessarily the shortest oreasiest path.
  • Protect your privacy. In online profiles, don’t mention your employer, salary, home orwork phone numbers. Invite birth mothers to call your adoption cell phone number if youare in possession of one.
  • Don’t make a hasty decision, no matter how anxious you are for a child. Don’t overcommit 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 the birthmother.
  • Be cautious with anyone who contacts you directly and prefers to work only through you. A woman who is sincere about adoption will provide you with specific contact information and she should respect your request that she 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.
  • Follow the feelings and promptings you receive. After all was said and done the internet was the key to our Son’s Birth Mother finding us. She was even working with LDS FS but LDS FS would have never pulled our file to show Samantha…our preferences didn’t match her situation….and Samantha needed to know us before making an adoption plan.
  • Miracles do happen online so don’t give up and don’t let the scammers win!
  • Pray for guidance, watch for signs, verify everything and move forward with faith.

For more information go to the “Someone’s Missing” Booklet (also known as “Making Your Adoption Happen”). Some items above come from this booklet. Or check out the 2006 FSA National Conference Presentation titled “Beware & Be Aware”. The 2nd half of that class was about internet adoption scams. It is on dvd with a few other presentations from that years conference….you can get it from LDS FS by request.

Comments

  1. Jewls says

    Great advice, I am totally bookmarking this post so that we'll have it handy when we're in the "pool" again!

  2. Silpada says

    I'm only aware now that scamming also happens with adoption procedures. Though I haven't any plan of adopting one as it might be a complicated one for my family. We still wanted someone from our own blood, though I'm open with adopting a child, my husband didn't.

    Lia Sophia for Cheap

  3. Todd, Liz and Sydney says

    Thanks Brenda (and rhouse) for this posting. I found this information enligtening especially being fairly new in the adoption process. Thanks for giving me hope again!

  4. Amanda says

    This info was SO informative! Thanks so much for sharing. We'll definitely take this info. into account as we pursue our adoption journey. . .

  5. M Barabino says

    It should be illegal for any discussion of adoption before a child is born. This creates a great incentive for a dual agent to coerce the mother. And I can tell you from experience the Mother’s child if adopted comes to know the truth.