Avoiding Adoption Scams Guide

Find out the top tips for recognizing scams before you're caught by the fraud.

Sarah M. Baker February 02, 2015

Luckily adoption scams are rare, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. With the Internet, it seems that adoption scams are easier to pull off, making them more and more common. While you shouldn’t let the fear of a scam stop you from proceeding in your adoption journey, you should be aware of, and on the lookout for, a few key indicators.

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Understand the Types of Scammers Out There
1. Understand the Types of Scammers Out There

There are a few different scenarios for a “portrait of a scammer.” Usually it is a woman who is actually pregnant who is working with several different hopeful adoptive parents. She is looking for living expenses, medical treatment, and emotional attachment.

Another type of scam involves an allegedly pregnant woman who is not actually pregnant and is trying to exploit people for money or emotional bonding. She preys on a couple’s hopes and dreams of building a family and takes advantage of their love, generosity, and pocketbook.

Lastly, there are people who will impersonate an adoption professional and share the details of one pregnancy with many couples to procure their fees, but when the placement suddenly “falls through,” fees are non-refundable.

Use an Agency or Legal Counsel
2. Use an Agency or Legal Counsel

An agency or lawyer that you have hired and trust to act as your liaison can help reduce the risk of scams. Never exchange money or personal information without first having representation. All money should go through a third party and be verified as a legal living cost expense. What qualifies as legal varies from state to state.

To help you find great adoption agencies, attorneys, and other service providers, you can also check out our reviews page.

Get Proof of Pregnancy
3. Get Proof of Pregnancy

An ultrasound and baby bump are not proof of pregnancy. These things can be forged. Have your lawyer/agency acquire authorization to obtain medical records and pregnancy-related information for proof of pregnancy and medical history.

Be Wary If She Wants You To Do It All Her Way
4. Be Wary If She Wants You To Do It All Her Way

If she suggests you use her lawyer or asks you to avoid agencies, it could be a sign that’s she’s not being honest. She may enlist the help of others to solidify her lies. They could be family, friends, or sometimes even fake adoption or medical professionals. Just because you found a profile for a person on Facebook does not mean they are a real person. Be aware.

Consider Background Checks
5. Consider Background Checks

You can run background checks on an individual. It is relatively easy and inexpensive. Check the standing of a lawyer or agency with the Better Business Bureau or other online reference resources. Checking for personal references is a great place to start.

Do a Database Search
6. Do a Database Search

Yahoo groups, Facebook, and even a Google search can reveal repeat scammers. They may have used the name—or pictures of sonograms or themselves—before. You can search using the name, phone number, IP address, or even drag-and-drop pictures they sent you. Checking these groups when you have that “feeling” is a good method of research.

Ask Around
7. Ask Around

Often if you are a member of a group like Parent Profiles, you can communicate directly with other hopeful adoptive parents. You can ask around to see if a story sounds familiar. Sometimes the woman posing as an expectant mother with an adoption plan has pitched her story to several families at once in the same community.

Watch Out For People Who Are Always In Crisis
9. Watch Out For People Who Are Always In Crisis

A red flag that can often be a common theme in adoption scams is that the expectant mom is always in some sort of crisis. Whether she is in need of money right now to keep her phone or water on, is going to lose her housing, or had a fight with her boyfriend or parent, there is always some crisis day to day or week to week. It can be emotionally and financially draining if you allow it to continue.

Know your limits. Know what is legally and ethically acceptable. You can deter her from coming to you for these things by offering suggestions for her to help herself. Often if it is a scam, she will tire of you referring her to the lawyer, counselor, social worker, or agency.

Make Face-to-Face Contact
10. Make Face-to-Face Contact

Ask for personal contact information. If you can’t meet directly with her, hire a lawyer in her area (to act on her behalf) who will have face-to-face interactions with her. Request a meeting with the agency or lawyer you hire to facilitate the process. Constant excuses and delaying or canceling meetings is another scam indicator.

Trust Your Gut
11. Trust Your Gut

If it seems too good to be true, it just might be. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed at all. But advance with your eyes wide open; caution is advised. If her story is showing gaping holes or continues to change, trust your instincts.

As hopeful adoptive parents, it is our job to not let our emotions get the best of us. We need to keep our head on straight and remember that adoptions must be procured ethically and legally. No shortcuts. Adoption is an emotional roller coaster. Don’t let your immense desire to become parents mislead you into a scam.

If You Are a Scam Victim
12. If You Are a Scam Victim

If you find you are the victim of an adoption scam, here are the steps you should take:

- Stop all payments and cancel any outstanding checks.
- Contact the local authorities.
- Contact your lawyer.
- Notify the adoption board administrator where your profile is posted.

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Sarah M. Baker

Sarah is a Staff Storyteller for Adoption.com and passionate about teaching others the power of open adoption. She is very active in the adoption community, where she spends a lot of time advocating as the founder of Heart For Open Adoption. She is the mom of two boys in addition to parenting her niece. She is a mother biologically and through domestic infant open adoption. Sarah promotes adoption education and ethical adoptions. She and her husband were featured on Season 2 of Oxygen’s “I’m Having Their Baby,” which tells the story of their first adoption match failing. Sarah hopes to bring her personal experience to you and help anyone who wants more information about adoption to find it with ease. Though it was once a taboo subject, Sarah hopes to make adoption something people are no longer afraid to talk about. You can learn more about Sarah and her family on her blog.

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