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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Avoiding Scams

Lincoln and I do a lot of "finding." I have shared some of the things that we do with you, and will be sharing others.

We have been officially "waiting" for 10.5 months. In that time we have been matched 4 times, we have been the target of a scam at least 4 times (more actually, but some are so obvious that they don't warrant anything more than the click of my delete button in my email or the erase button on my phone. Those I don't count.) We have also been contacted by at least 5-6 other expectant parents who are considering adoption, but haven't made up their minds yet. We've talked on the phone to many expectant parents, we met one for lunch to answer questions about adoption. . . we haven't yet been successful, but it hasn't been for lack of activity.

If you are going to be proactive in finding, you are going to attract scammers. Why do people do this? Sometimes they are hoping to con you out of money. Some of them are simply looking for attention. All of them are sick. Here are the things that we have learned about weeding out scammers and dealing emotionally with the constant up and down.

A. The first thing we do is consult this very helpful article written by ABC Adoptions. If any of these things come up, we take additional measures to investigate the situation.

1. Usually the motivation for birthmother scams are to take your money. She needs money for rent, food, etc. Only give money to a birthmother-to-be through an attorney or qualified adoption professional. The amount limits and circumstances vary by state law. Do not give money directly to a birthmother.

2. If the birthmother is not available by phone and wants to call you because of an on going situation, beware! You should have a contact number and complete physical address that you can verify.

3. A birthmother may not even be pregnant or could be pregnant and has other plans for the baby, including keeping the baby or promising the baby to several waiting adoptive parents. Look for those signs.

4. The birthmother has at least one or more crisis in her life and you are part of the solution. This can include sad stories such as rape and incest. Be sensitive, but do not be drawn into the whole situation.

5. The birthmother offers a plan to bring the baby to you. Birthmothers usually want you to meet her and arrange to receive the baby at the hospital. This ploy is used to get a plane ticket which can be cashed in later. Do not give anyone a plane ticket. Many adopting parents have lost money by purchasing a plane ticket and never hearing from the, supposed, birthmother again

5. To have a match, you must meet face to face with the expectant mother. Big flag, the birthmother flakes out. She misses scheduled meetings with you or other professionals. Even with an unbelievable story she can be very convincing.

6. Proof or pregnancy or other documents are agreed upon, but never seem to arrive. She seems to always have a reason for not sending you identifying information or cannot believe that you have not received the information. A sudden miscarriage or hospitalization can happen when you request for too much information.

7. The birthmother does not want you to contact anyone else concerning her pregnancy. She does not feel comfortable meeting or talking with an attorney or other adoption professional. When pressed, she might accuse you of not trusting her and can even get angry.

8. The birthmother will not give you, but will get you the name of her doctor or clinic where she is receiving medical attention.

9. The birthmother will evade certain details regarding medical attention, signing parental rights, contacting social services or adoption professionals.

10. The birthmother changes her story about the pregnancy or her situation. If a birthmother is talking to several adoptive parents, her story can change because she cannot remember what she said to you.

11. Be careful if the birthmother is expecting twins. This is a popular situation with an adoption scam. In the natural course, ask for proof of pregnancy and how are you able to contact her doctor.

12. A favorite ploy is for someone to fix you up with a friend. That person might pose as an adoptive parent and not an adoption professional. Be careful that the friend is not the same person. If both have the same IP address watch out!

13. Fake birthmothers are very willing to match quickly and will say you are perfect, without knowing much about you. They are going to send you pictures and other thing, but never do.

14. They have always had complications with the pregnancy.....they usually claim when you cannot find them that they were at the emergency room.

15. The birthmother does not like or want to deal with an attorney or other adoption professional. She has had a bad experience with an attorney and does not want to work with them again.

16. The truth of the matter is that you need to get down to adoption business. Small talk is necessary, but keep it in prospective. The phone meetings are to establish if you are suited for a "match" and if yes, then both parties need to get the necessary paper work in order.

B. The next thing we always do is to do an internet search for their name and email address. We have discovered two very legitimate sounding contacts were scams this way.

C. We then search the Yahoo Group "Adoption Scams" for the potential birth parent's name and email address.

D. We also always ask them to look at our adoption blog. We keep detailed statistics on who visits our blog. We always ask them where they are from, and verify that someone from that city viewed our blog between our first and second conversations.

Some of the other "further actions" we have taken are:
  • had a background check run on a prospective b-parent (it was scary.)
  • hired an attorney in the expectant parent's state to determine if she was legitimate.
  • asked expectant parents to meet with a caseworker in their state to verify pregnancy and asked them to allow the case worker to talk with prospective birth mom's doctor. (She told us she was expecting twins, she wasn't.)
E. Above all, trust your instincts. If something sounds off to you, it probably is.

There are several other places that you can become educated about potential adoption scams and what to look for.
The EMOTIONAL ASPECT of vetting out the potential birth parents who contact you can really take a tole. It gets easier the more that you do it, that is because you get better at determining what sounds strange and what sounds real.

Link and I have come up with a good cop, bad cop routine that has helped us a lot. He assumes that anyone that contacts us is a scammer. I assume that anyone (within reason- anyone from South Africa is OUT) is a real expectant parent and we proceed from there. Lincoln checking me to make sure I do not get too emotional and I checking him to make sure he doesn't damage the potential relationship.

It is hard, and while it gets easier, my heart STILL leaps when I open my email box to find an email that could potentially be THAT email, or get a text message or a phone call. . . Even though none of them have ultimately been THE MESSAGE that will eventually lead us to our new family member, four of them have been close, and two of them have been very very close.

This has kept me from giving up, from just throwing in the towel and saying, "forget it, there are nothing but crazies out here." FAITH and TRUST IN GOD are the main weapons in combating adoption fatigue. You will still have doubt (I know I do) but "Perfect LOVE casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18) and the love Link and I have for our future children may not yet be perfect but it is fierce. It is certainly strong enough to look that fear in the face and say,


I would also like to add that hopeful adoptive parents are not the only ones who are at risk of being the victims of adoption scams. Potential birth parents are also face some risk of matching with unethical adoptive parents. That, however, is an entire different post. You can read more about the warning signs of that kind of adoption scam in the Adoption ABC article I mentioned above.

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