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Protecting Yourself from Adoption Scams

Adopting a child is an emotionally charged process that can leave prospective adoptive parents vulnerable to less-than-virtuous adoption agencies and birth mothers. Most adoptions proceed and are finalized without any problems; however, a small number do turn out to be scams - perpetrated either by the birth mother or the adoption agency. Prospective adoptive parents need to be aware of the signs of an adoption scam and understand how to protect themselves. The following are some red flags to watch for.

Birth Mother

One of the first things you should do when you have made contact with a prospective birth mother is confirm her pregnancy. If she stalls when asked to send verification, refuses to, claims she can't for some reason, or sends false documentation, you should think twice about continuing to work with her. Also, be sure to ask the birth mother for her doctor's name and confirm that he or she is in fact a real doctor.

Many women who pose as prospective birth mothers do it for the money, so be suspicious if she asks you to spend an exorbitant amount of money on her, if she drastically increases what she needs or wants from you, she insists on bringing the baby to you (but she wants you to buy her plane ticket), or if she has a suspicious number of emergencies that require you to send her more money. Never give money directly to a birth mother - give it only through the adoption agency, facilitator, or attorney.

Be suspicious if she refuses to give you her address and phone number, or if these cannot be verified through the post office or 411.com. Many scammers insist on calling you and are unreachable if you try to contact her. She may not want you to contact anyone else concerning her pregnancy such as her doctor, the baby's father, or her family.

Many scammers will not give specific details or their story changes several times. While some legitimate birth mothers may be hesitant to spill their story about how they ended up pregnant and unable or unwilling to keep the baby to strangers, she should at least offer up some details and her story should check out and remain consistent.

If the birth mother misses several scheduled meetings or conversations, or changes her plans at the last minute, this could be a red flag that something is amiss.

Many scammers will claim that you are perfect immediately upon meeting you, without getting to know you first. Most legitimate birth mothers would want to get to know the prospective adoptive parents of their baby at least a little before making up her mind.

Adoption Agency Scams

An adoption agency should not require you to pay the entire adoption fee up front. Be suspicious of any agency that requires you to pay anything more than the application fee initially. The rest of the fee should be paid in installments.

Before signing up with any agency, research them thoroughly. Confirm that they are licensed in your state (they should give you their agency license number upon request) and contact the Better Business Bureau to find out how many (if any) complaints have been registered about them, their nature, and resolution. You should also contact your state's licensing specialist who can provide information on the agency's licensing status and any complaints or legal actions taken against them. Word of mouth is also a powerful tool, so join a couple of local adoption message boards and ask around. People may have had negative experiences that they didn't formally report.

If you do end up involved with a fraudulent agency or facilitator, report them to the Better Business Bureau, the Joint Council on International Children's Services, National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, your state's Attorney General, and if it involves the Internet, the National Fraud Information Center.

 


 

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