Adoption scams. The first time I heard this phrase, I wondered what kind of a person would do this. It can’t really be that prevalent, I thought. After spending some time in the adoption community, and after being scammed myself (over a period of several months!), I now know that adoption scams are way too common.
Before we talk about how to avoid scams, let’s talk about the types of scammers you might encounter:
Emotional scammers. These are usually women, and they’ll be very demanding in their requests for attention. They may text you at all hours or come up with elaborate stories about all the drama in their lives. Eventually they’ll disappear and move on to the next couple.
Monetary scammers. These people want money. They may ask you to wire funds. They may pressure you to pay for expenses without involving a lawyer. They may even outright offer to exchange a baby for cash.
You may not be able to totally avoid adoption scammers, even if you only work with an agency. We were scammed while working with an agency. But, with these tips, you should be able to minimize the emotional and financial damage if you’re contacted by one.
1. When you’re contacted about a potential adoption situation, take a breath and try to look at it objectively, not emotionally. There’s time to get emotional later.
2. If the person is claiming to be from abroad, check to see if adoptions are actually allowed from that country. There’s a popular scam with people saying they’re in Cameroon, for example, but you can’t adopt from there.
3. Do a Google search for the part of their email address before the @.
4. Do a Google search for their first and last name, if they’ve provided it.
5. Check Facebook.
6. If they send you photographs, save these to your desktop, then drag and drop the image into the Google search bar. This will tell you if that image shows up anywhere else on the Internet. It’s common for scammers to steal photos from photo sharing sites, like Flickr.
7. Communicate with your agency or lawyer. Keep them up to date on the conversations you’re having, and listen to their expertise.
8. Join groups dedicated to sharing information about scammers. There are several on Facebook, and one on Yahoo groups.
9. Also keep in mind that not all adoption professionals are ethical. Research who you work with before signing anything. Make sure they are not people who will withhold information from expectant parents, or from you.
It may not be possible to avoid all scams, but by arming yourself with these tips, you’ll be going a long way in keeping yourself safe.