Having a prospective birth mother change her mind after connecting with her through your online adoption profile can be devastating. But being the target of an adoption scam is worse in many ways.
Although some waiting parents forget it, prospective birth mothers actually do have the right to change their mind. And when they do so, it’s usually not for malicious reasons.
Adoption scams, on the other hand, are calculated deceptions that often involve planning and preparation. Often they’re referred to as “birth mother scams” but that’s a misnomer.
Birth mothers–mothers who have placed their baby for adoption–have nothing to do with them. A birthmother is a woman who has placed her baby for adoption.
Adoption scams are perpetuated by people—men sometimes as well as women–who aren’t looking at placing their baby for adoption, don’t have an adoption plan, and in most cases, aren’t even pregnant.
Long story short: they’re not “birthmother scams.” Birthmothers aren’t involved. “Birthmother scam” is simply a shorthand way of describing these situations because they’re easy to understand and it grabs people’s attention.
Many waiting parents are weary about posting their profile online because they fear they may be targeted in an adoption scam. It’s a legitimate concern. What they don’t realize is that the internet is just a tool.
Adoption scams can happen any time, through any platform, and even when agencies or adoption professionals are involved. Agencies and attorneys offer additional safeguards and layers of protection, but scams can happen through them too. There are no guarantees when it comes to an adoption match.
That’s why it’s important not to dive into a situation too quickly and to do your due diligence every step of the way so that you can spot an adoption scam before it causes any major damage.
Here are a few warning signs and suggestions on how to protect yourself:
A questionable email address or subject line. When it comes to reaching to you, most scammers first point of contact will be through email. Even before you get to their message, their address (firstname.lastname@example.org) or subject line (“Baby for you”) could be an instant tipoff. Think about it: if you were looking for adoptive parents for your baby, is that the message you would send out?
Request for money. Nothing screams “scam” louder than an email request for money. Save yourself trouble down the road: Put an end to the correspondence immediately. Never give anyone a cent without clearing it with your adoption professional first.
Request for a plane ticket. Alarm bells should go if you get a request for an airline ticket, especially if the email originates overseas. Just because someone tells you they want to have a baby in your city doesn’t mean there is a baby or that the person contacting you has any intentions of pursuing adoption.
Generic message. If the email lacks specifics or there’s no indication that whoever sent it had read your profile, be on your guard. Chances are you’re just one of many people on the message’s receiving end.
Twins and timing. Another red flag is twins. Although twins do get placed every once in a while, they’re also one of the classic scams in a adoption fraudster’s playbook. And if they happen to be due around key times of the year—say, Christmas or Mother’s Day, when your guard is down and your longing to become a parent is at its peak—you know you’re heading for trouble.
A one-way street. A relationships are built on give and take. If there’s no give on the other end, there’s likely no relationship. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether the person on the end is legit or not. After all, it could well be a prospective birth parent. She may just be shy or confused. And the last thing you want to do is scare her off and lose out on what could be a great opportunity.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions that will help you determine whether the person really is who she says she is:
Set up a phone conversation. Not sure whether you’re corresponding with a 30-year-old pregnant woman who’s thinking of adoption or a 14-year-old boy with a too much time on his hands? Arrange a time to speak by phone and see what happens.
Get a confirmation of pregnancy. An easy way to confirm whether the person you’re speaking to is pregnant is to get a copy of her ultrasound. If she can’t send it or doesn’t want to, see if you can speak to her doctor. If she turns you down, it’s another sign that things may not be what you think they are. But also keep in mind that the ultrasound could be a fake as it’s very easy to get one online.
Get your adoption professionals involved. Still have doubts? Get her to talk to your adoption professionals. They have more experience in these matters than you do. And, because they’re not emotionally involved, they can ask hard questions that you may be afraid to ask.
Not all adoption scams revolve around money. Most are actually driven by the need for attention and control. If you sense that the person you’re dealing with is manipulative or overly interested in your personal matters that have nothing to do with your adoption plans, it’s time to rethink your relationship.
You could be dealing with someone with mental health issues. Cutting yourself off may be difficult. And if you think it’s hard now, just wait until you’re even more fully immersed in a situation.
Adopting a baby is stressful and unpredictable at the best of times. Properly screening people who contact you can take a huge weight off your shoulders and save you headaches and heartaches down the road.