When I first began working as a member o the adoption community, I imagined that many twists, turns, ups and downs could be part of the adoption process. However, adoption scams were not something that I anticipated coming into contact with. Adoption scams can affect adoption professionals and hopeful adopting parents alike, and can be frustrating, hurtful, time consuming, and exhausting.
The very first case I had when beginning work at Nightlight was with a fraudulent expectant mother. After many weeks of twisted truth and manipulation, she left everyone involved hurt, confused, and absolutely blindsided. After this case, I was determined to go above and beyond learning the signs of an adoption scam, and work to put an end to this issue.
I did much research about forms that adoption scams can take, and how to recognize the signs. Many of these scams come from social media. Just recently, I received a call from an expectant mother who had gotten the expectant mother cell number from an adoptive family via Instagram. Initially, things seemed fine. However, once I began to gather more information, ask more questions, and look into who she was, things did not add up and began to feel ‘off’. Over the next three days, this expectant mother displayed many of the telltale signs of a fraudulent expectant mother, and grew very aggressive over text when I did not give her what she wanted. After I utilized online groups dedicated to stopping adoption scams and saw numerous reports about her, I told her our agency would not be able to move forward. Though it was exhausting to deal with, I was so thankful to recognize the signs and stop our involvement in this scam early on. I have read story after story of lovely adopting families getting strung along by individuals like this, only to result in loss, confusion, and heartache. These stories are happening across the country, but adoption professionals across the country are coming together and joining forces to mitigate this issue, helping each other and our adopting families not stumble into the snares set by these fraudulent individuals. Social media can be an effective way to promote your adoption profile, but many adoption scams can come from these sites and it is important to be prepared to recognize these for what they are.
There are many different forms that an adoption scam can take: an expectant mother who is truly pregnant but has no intentions of placing her baby with a family, an individual who may not be pregnant but claims to be, or an individual who has essentially stolen the identity and photos of a real pregnant woman – all for the purpose of gaining money and services, or manipulating the emotions of adoption professionals and adopting families. So, how can we prepare for this and know when an expectant mother is fraudulent?
Learn to Recognize the Signs. There are ways to recognize an adoption scam, both subtle and obvious. If the texts seem odd, trust your instincts. Scammers are often persistent and demanding with their texts, and often times will grow very agitated or aggressive when asked to do things that verify their identity or when told information that could potentially mean they won’t get what they want. They often provide a lot of information upfront, and will often send photos or ultrasound images almost right away. It is also common for them to bombard you with many texts, and get upset if you do not respond right away. It is unusual for moms who are truly placing their baby for adoption to behave in this way.
Utilize Resources. There are many pages and groups online specifically dedicated to recognizing adoption scams and reporting fraudulent individuals. If you intend on connecting with expectant mothers online or utilizing social media as a means to show your profile, I would highly suggest that you join at least one group that is used for this purpose, such as “Ending Adoption Scams” on Facebook. On these pages, you can either search the expectant mother’s name who has reached out to you, or make a post with her first name, last initial, and state to see if any other agencies or individuals have heard from her or reported fraudulent activity or suspicious behavior.
Research and Learn from the Past. Blogs, articles, videos – look into them all. A known adoption scammer to be aware of is Gabby, who made an appearance on Dr. Phil and has continued to harass and deceive hundreds of adoption professionals and hopeful adoptive parents alike. Gabby does not stop creating numerous identities and stories, stealing the photos, names, and due dates of real expectant mothers via Instagram and Facebook. I myself have heard from Gabby and spoken to her on the phone. Learning what she does and what her communication is like will help you recognize if you are being “Gabbied” by her or a similar scammer. Many adoptive parents that have experienced an adoption scam have shared their stories online, and these create perfect opportunities for prospective adoptive parents to learn from these experiences and be prepared.
Report Fraudulent Individuals and Block Numbers/Accounts. In the adoption community, we are all working diligently to do our part in mitigating this issue. If you encounter a fraudulent expectant individual, be sure to report the individual to an adoption professional. In addition to this, do not be hesitate to block scamming expectant mothers’ numbers or social media accounts immediately. Scammers emotionally manipulate to keep the conversation going and make it more difficult for adoption professionals or hopeful families to cut off contact.
How to Ask the Right Questions Without Being Accusatory. Ask questions in an open-minded way, and cast the “blame” on the adoption agency’s policies or recommendations. As an adopting family, it is best to try to avoid getting into in depth conversations with expectant mothers, and instead redirect the interaction and get them connected to your office’s Pregnancy Counselor for a match to be officially made. Our team is here for you, and are trained to recognize scams. If you do end up in a conversation with an expectant mother, try to avoid assuming that every expectant mother may be scamming but still proceed with caution and wisdom. If I suspect that an expectant mother may be fraudulent, I ask if they’d be willing to do a Zoom call and let them know that I, their pregnancy counselor, will need proof of pregnancy (medical records, a statement from clinic, or ultrasound verified by a doctor) before we can proceed with any services. An expectant mother who is truly pregnant and interested in considering adoption will not have a problem with this.
Remember that not every expectant mother who reaches out is fraudulent. The adoption and matching processes are beautiful and delicate, and I encourage you to not be fearful or jaded, but just to be prepared. If you choose to utilize social media as a platform to show your profile or reach expectant mothers, I encourage you to become well-versed on how to protect yourself from the ways of adoption scammers. Be creative, have fun, and be wise as you create your online profiles!
By: Winter Baumgartner