Needless to say, scams involving innocent children are high up on a morality barometer. And adoption scams are surely the worst of them.
Adoption scams involve intentional misrepresentation and/or criminal activity surrounding the adoption process. They may involve adoption agencies, facilitators, birth mothers, fake birth mothers, and, sometimes, even potential adoptive parents.
Adoption is a highly emotional experience. And a lengthy one. And bureaucratic. Expect plenty of ups and downs. Of course, the biggest down is getting mixed up in an adoption scam. Therefore, reach out for support and guidance in advance. That’s the best way to avoid nine months of deception.
Examples of Adoption Scams
There are a number of different scams that can hit any phase of the adoption process. All aim to lure in unsuspecting adoptive parents for financial gain. Examples include:
- An adoption agency charging an unusually high fee for services
- Adoption agencies charging for services that they did not provide
- Agencies that intentionally withhold critical information about the child
- A pregnant woman who offers her baby to multiple families
- A woman who is not pregnant and has no intention to conceive
- Any person who attempts to sell a baby online for monetary payment without any legal authorization
In March 2020, two ground-breaking articles about adoption scams were published. The first was a case study of the three most common types of adoption scammers, published by a forensic psychologist in Psychology Today. Five days later, adoption scam victim Erika Celeste posted her expose of a very successful young adoption scammer who learned the trade at age 11 from her mother.
How to Avoid Adoption Scams
Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs
Adoption scams have warning signs. Know what they are in advance. Do not begin the adoption process unless you understand it step-by-step. In addition, do not hesitate to ask questions. Most importantly, voice whatever concerns to the adoption agency you have until they are fully addressed to your satisfaction. In simple terms, ignoring warning signs may be costly both financially and emotionally.
Choose an Experienced Adoption Professional
The best way to protect yourself from a scam is to seek advice from a trusted adoption professional who can guide you on your adoption journey and advise you every step of the way. Licensed adoption professionals also liaise with one another and will alert you to suspicious activity in the adoption community.
Make Sure to Get Proof of Pregnancy
It is critical to confirm that the purported birth mother has proof of pregnancy. If you are going through an adoption professional, they should have this information available. If they do not, then stop the process immediately. Furthermore, make sure that the pregnancy test results carry the signature of a licensed medical professional.
Consider a Background Check
You also have to know if the mother is physically and mentally healthy. If she is not forthcoming, consider hiring a private investigator to do some research. Background checks are a relatively easy and inexpensive method of obtaining that information. In addition, check the reputations of her attorney, her doctor, as well as the agency handling her case.
Certainly, a face-to-face meeting with the birth mother is an excellent way to emotionally connect and identify her character. If she exhibits irregular behavior like constant excuses, cancellations and delays, exercise extreme caution. These are red flag behaviors.
Needless to say, social media sites and basic Google searches can assist in identifying repeat scammers. You can search a person’s name, phone number, email address, IP address, and photo if you are suspicious.
Steps to Take if You Have Been Scammed
If you sense that you have identified an adoption scam, these are the steps that you should immediately take: First, stop all payments and cancel all outstanding checks and debit orders. Second, contact your attorney and local authorities. Finally, notify the adoption board and law enforcement.
Reporting Adoption Scams Does Bring Results
In February 2020, for example, the operator of the Always Hope Pregnancy and Education Center in Michigan was sentenced to prison on charges of wire fraud. She had matched multiple prospective parents to a birth mother or with birth mothers who simply did not exist or had not decided to place their children up for adoption. She even matched prospective parents up with women who were not pregnant. She also falsely claimed to be a licensed social worker and that the agency she headed was licensed as well, even though it was not. The case demonstrates how running a background check on her professional qualifications could have prevented prospective parents from falling victim. In September of 2020, moreover, a properly licensed operator of a Houston child placement agency was also sentenced to prison on similar charges.
If you think you’ve been the victim of an adoption scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.