We knew it was coming. It is almost inevitable to adopt privately without encountering them. But Aaron and I found ourselves scrambling this week, our very first week searching for our family, to learn about adoption scams and how to spot them.
I think it is little known in the general public that this is such a problem in the adoption community. I know I had never heard about it happening prior to starting our journey. Through my research, though, I learned that if we are advertising ourselves correctly, we will be scammed. These people prey on adoption sites, social media accounts, and advertisements made by couples hoping to adopt.
In just our first week of searching for our family, we have been contacted 4 times by scammers.
Although we knew it would happen to us, I was not prepared for just how REAL these situations appear when you are first contacted. I spent quite a bit of time this week scouring the internet, trying to find different ways to verify that a situation is legit.
There are two types of adoption scams, financial and emotional. In both cases, the scammers will lure you in with a fake pregnancy and try to convince you that they are interested in choosing you to adopt their baby. In financial scams, they quickly will switch over to asking for money for various things. This type, I am far less afraid of because Aaron and I legally cannot give money over to an expectant family without our lawyer involved. And usually with any mention of a lawyer, this type of scammer will bail immediately.
The first scam we encountered this week was a financial one. It was easy to spot, and we didn’t get too excited about anything. In fact, we high-fived because we knew it was coming if we were doing things right, and here was proof that we were being seen, even if by the wrong people at the moment. We were told it was a situation in West Africa of a 3 year old that was needing to be adopted. Obviously we have been clear that we plan to adopt from the States, and this person did not take the time to look at that information. We didn’t even engage, but we knew the next question would be if we could send money.
The next 3 scammers that contacted us were emotional scammers. I have read enough about them to know that they can be tricky, and I was surprisingly more defeated after these than I thought that I would be. Emotional scammers prey on adopting couples for attention. They lure you in with a remarkably complex and put-together stories, attempt to “prove” the pregnancy to you, and try to foster a relationship with you in order to gain connection with people that apparently is missing in their real lives.
The most famous of these is woman named Gabby, who has done this for the better part of a decade and is still active. If you are interested in more about her story, she was featured on a Dr. Phil episode that dives more into what she does.
She is such a problem in the adoption community, that there are entire websites and social groups on Facebook devoted to trying to recognize and catch the stories she comes up with so that families can quickly recognize her and move on.
I was contacted twice this week by two different “couples” interested in making an adoption plan for their baby, and these wonderful Facebook communities were able to quickly tell me that it was her behind the stories.
These emotional scams are disheartening to me, and to everyone else just trying to do their best to grow their families. The first one of these that contacted me was EXTREMELY difficult to prove wrong just by talking to her. She had an ultrasound that had her full name on it, her Facebook (and her boyfriends) were well developed and not obviously new and fake-meaning she is probably using the Facebook profiles of actual people and pretending they are her, her cell phone did not originate from an online directory, and she seemed sweet and innocent.
That is, until I asked her to contact our social worker and verify the situation. Then things took a turn. But, I spent an entire day going back and forth in my head and my heart as to whether that situation was real.
And it’s just sad. No one wants their heart to be played with when going through an already highly emotional situation.
We just have to have faith that when the right situation presents itself, we will know. I am scared going forward to have a mistrust of someone who is legitimately trying to do the right thing.
So, we just have to keep moving forward. One day at a time, just like we have done for the past couple of years. We will continue in our confidence that we are doing the right thing, and the perfect situation will present itself when the time is right.
And when that time comes, all of this will be worth it.