I feel pretty blessed I’m not writing “The Twelve Adoption Scams of Christmas” as I only have three to offer. But I’m sure that many other hopeful adoptive parents could add their own stories to my list.
This last scam was definitely the best of the bunch. Luckily for others, the woman behind it had a bad memory or was a bad record keeper or took too many drugs to remember which couples she has already contacted.
To help keep track of visitors to my website, I have Google Analytics. I also keep records of any calls that I receive from prospective birthparents.
On November 16, I got a call from a woman with a Cleveland area code. She told me she had just started to explore her adoption options, but did not want to use an agency. She sounded mature and professional, for lack of a better description.
She came from another adoption profile website
My husband and I agreed early on to have our agency follow up on any leads we received to our parent profile. For us, this was non-negotiable. When I explained that to the Cleveland woman, she replied, “That won’t work for me.” It didn’t work for me, either. I thanked her for considering us and wished her well.
According to my Analytics report, she was actually located in Lakewood, Ohio and came to our site via another parent profile website. She visited 9 pages for 2 minutes. This was her first visit.
Two minutes on a website is a really short period of time. I’ve had other legit calls (that haven’t worked out for other reasons) where users spent 25-40 minutes carefully going through our pages.
Typically, they’ll visit multiple times over multiple months. Sometimes they’ll send a link to our site to their friends via Facebook. This woman, on the other hand, spent less time on our site deciding on parents for her baby than it takes to order a cheeseburger.
Wanted to talk about adoption
Fast forward to December 13. I got a voicemail from a girl named “Jenny” stating she was three months pregnant, liked our profile, and wanted to talk about adoption. The phone number was from the Cleveland area.
How ironic, I thought, thinking back to that earlier call. But hey, there are 400,000 people in Cleveland and more than one might be exploring adoption. I went home and left a phone message for Jenny explaining that the next steps were for her to call our agency.
Then I looked at my Analytics records again and noticed I had a repeat visitor from Lakewood, Ohio coming from that same parent profile site. The visitor looked at 5 pages for less than 2 minutes. I then compared the new phone number with the one from November. It was the exact same one.
Later, Jenny left me another message stating that she liked our profile and really wanted to do a private adoption but not through our agency. Her voice didn’t sound as coherent as the first time she called. Concerned that she might be high, I didn’t call her back.
Then, the next day, I noticed that she had returned to our site via the same parent profile site. Typically repeat visitors come directly to the site — via bookmarking or actually remembering the URL of the people who one day might parent their child — rather than arriving from the same referral site. This time she went to the home page and left right away. I guess she remembered our site, after all.
A proposed pact for aspiring adoptive parents
If this woman liked our profile as much as she said she did, why would she care whether we used an agency or not? That was a huge red flag for me — especially since she offered no explanation such as “I don’t like bureaucracy,” “I don’t want counseling,” or “I was once bitten by a social worker”.
Also the fact that she came to our site twice after I told her about our approach — that behavior suggested to me that she must contacted hopeful parents one by one after trolling adoption profile sites. That, combined with the fact that she called in November and then again in December, made me think she called people so often that she couldn’t keep track of them all.
This one just didn’t sit right in my gut. A friend who was an adoption counselor for 10 years once told me that when someone refuses to use an agency or speak to an adoption professional, run for the hills.
I always feel like I’ve survived a level of “The Hunger Games” when my husband, Jeff, and I stand our ground with a scammer. We’ll continue to remain hopeful, but we’ll keep our bows and arrows close by as we trudge along the adoption path.
As aspiring adoptive parents, let’s all make a pact to help each other avoid scams. I’m so glad Lawrence has created a new adoption scam discusion forum on this website where we can give each other some warning. If even one of us avoids the heartbreak of an adoption scam, it will have been worth it.
Have you been contacted by this adoption scammer? What advice do you have for waiting adoptive parents about protecting yourself from adoption scams? Share your comments in the space below or on our forum.
Leah B. and her husband, Jeff, live in Chicago, IL and have been together for seven years. Leah is a former professional comedienne who turned in her mic for a family-friendly internet marketing job. Jeff writes a humor blog for the Chicago Tribune and will become a stay-at-home dad upon the adoption of a child. They are working with the Cradle adoption agency.
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