What is an adoption scam? More importantly, how can you protect yourself from con artists who prey on adoptive families hoping to adopt? Unfortunately, there are both criminals as well as lonely, perhaps mentally ill, people who run adoption scams.
There are two types of scams, emotional and financial. Both types of scammers pretend they are pregnant and say they want to place their child for adoption. Emotional scammers are looking for attention and someone to talk with. They do not ask for money or anything else. They just enjoy the attention. Financial scammers may try to hook the adoptive family in emotionally, but their end goal is financial gain.
Surprisingly, emotional scams are both more common, and can be more devastating for the adoptive family. Unfortunately, people who run emotional scams are usually very good at getting and keeping a family engaged. They are convincing and sound extremely sincere. Financial scammers are also convincing. They rarely will mention money at the beginning of the relationship. Money will only come up after they have developed a level of trust with you.
You are probably wondering how you can protect yourself. After all, completely legitimate potential birthparents are sincere and may need financial assistance. The first rule is, NEVER give money to any potential birthparent without talking to the agency or attorney you are working with first. Each state has different rules about financial support. Violating these rules could put the adoption in jeopardy. If a potential birthparent asks for money tell them they need to talk to the agency or attorney. The agency or attorney will work out a budget and then get back to you with the financial needs of the birthparent.
The second rule is: never keep secrets from the agency or attorney. It is a huge red flag if the birthparent asks you not to share something, but it is also a red flag that you are involved in an emotional or financial scam if you feel like you need to hide something from your agency or attorney. Legitimate potential birthparents will also contact the agency or attorney you are working with. If they refuse, stop talking to them.
Finally, if your agency or attorney tells you that a situation is scam, believe them. Remember they have emotional distance from the situation and can more easily spot a scam. They are also monitoring a database of scammers and websites that post information about scams. This sounds like easy advice to follow, but if you have gotten yourself ensnared with a con artist it can be very difficult to see it.
Financial scams are illegal. The IAC and most other agencies and adoption attorneys cooperate with law enforcement in their prosecution. Emotional scams, although cruel, are not illegal, which makes them particularly devastating. It is difficult to recover when there is no one held accountable for the pain you are feeling.
Remember, if you do talk or email with a scammer do not take that experience into your next contact with a potential birthparent. This is very important. If you are having a difficult time recovering take some time to get back on your feet. If you are working with the IAC, call your counselor and ask for help.