8 Ways to Identify an Adoption Scammer

Here is what I learned from my experiences with adoption scams.

Michelle Barnes February 09, 2016
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I knew when we published our profile that we would likely experience someone faking a pregnancy to make some money, and we definitely did. However, those scammers seemed easy to spot. They mentioned money quickly, couldn’t answer simple questions, and their stories fell apart quickly. The more difficult part of our journey was dealing with emotional scammers. These girls prey on vulnerable couples who will give them attention and they are VERY good at it.

I wish I could say we didn’t invest time into these fictitious pregnancies. Sadly, we did. However, I learned so much from those experiences.

Here are 8 things every hopeful adoptive couple should know:

1. Check their number. 

Our scammers often used Google Voice #’s.

Try entering their number into a site like www.phonevalidator.com. If they are using anything other than a personal cell number, it will say “BANDWIDTH.COM – POSSIBLE GOOGLE VOICE OR OTHER VIRTUAL PHONE NUMBER.”

This isn’t a reason to shut the communication down completely, but it is a red flag.

2. Find their social media sites!

On Instagram see who they follow and what the comments look like. Often they don’t have a lot of comments and follow random people. Look at the people they follow, look for other adoptive couples, fake accounts, etc.

On Facebook, make sure the page isn’t brand new. Look through their friends: if they don’t follow any family members, that’s a huge red flag.

Most people have at least one social media account. If you can’t find one, it’s likely they are using a fake name.

Our scammers often followed a lot of adoptive couples and zero real family members. Keep track of people they mention while you’re getting to know them and then make sure those people really exist. Listen to what they say about the people in their life. One of our scammers was caught when I used google image search and found that one of her “best friends” she often talked about was actually not a best friend but an adoptive couple she had scammed the year earlier.

3. Use Spokeo. 

Pay $0.95 for a Spokeo check (Spokeo requires a membership for $20 a month but if you cancel within 7 days you just pay the $0.95). Enter their phone number and see who it’s registered to and where the calls are coming from. Keep in mind that younger girls often have phones registered to family members.

4. Reverse image search. 

Run a reverse image search on Google: images.google.com. Most of our scammers used original photos (one wore a fake belly!) but it’s definitely the first thing to rule out. Many scammers use photos they find online.

5. Check scam boards online. 

My favorite is “Putting an End to Adoption Scams” on Facebook, but there are many! One of our scammers was mentioned on this board and if I had been on this board earlier I wouldn’t have wasted any time with her. This is a great first place to look for scammers!

6. Know common red flags. 

Look for red flags with emotional scammers (ours were all so similar): They often talk about hospital stays, family emergencies, etc. They are typically very dramatic and love to get sympathy. If their stories sound too good to be true, they likely are. Most scammers didn’t want to know anything about us, they just wanted to talk about themselves and all their drama.

7. Ultrasounds are not confirmation. 

Do not rely on ultrasounds and belly pictures for pregnancy confirmations – sites like www.fakeababy.com allow you to make real ultrasounds. We had at least one scammer use this!

8. Don’t assume you’re dealing with a scammer. 

Even if you think you might be dealing with a scammer, don’t call them out, don’t ask for proof, and don’t make assumptions. In the beginning, just let them talk. Do your research while you keep normal communication going. If they are scamming you, they will make a mistake eventually and you’ll know how to catch it!

Our son’s birth mom said a few things that were similar to another scammer I had dealt with, and I instantly assumed she was a scammer because I was bitter about our previous experience. I’m so glad I was kind and supportive even though I didn’t trust her in the beginning. Ultimately, she ended up placing her son in my arms.

Scammers are out there and they know how to manipulate couples at a vulnerable time, but as long as you know how to spot a scammer using the tools above, you won’t have to waste your time while waiting for your birth mom to find you!

If you are interested in adopting a baby in the United States and would like to speak with an adoption professional about getting started, click here

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Michelle Barnes

Michelle is a mom to two beautiful children, one she gave birth to and one who was lovingly placed in her arms. She is an author, entrepreneur, maker, and baker. Adoption is her passion and she speaks at local high schools, attends panels, and does anything she can to share the beauty she's seen and experienced. Adoption gave her hope and gave her a son, she writes more about it at The Copper Collective.


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