Adoption can be an emotional journey for many. Finding out that a birth mother is interested in you as adoptive parents to her baby is one of the most exciting parts of the adoption process. Unfortunately, some people will take advantage of hopeful adoptive parents during this emotional time. While adoption scams are rare, they do happen on occasion. So that you can adopt a baby safely and successfully, it’s important to be aware of the most common types of adoption scams and red flags to watch out for.
Today, I’m sharing the most common adoption scams. By knowing what they look like, you can prevent a scam from happening to you! They do not always mean fraud so use your intuition and judgment, but they may help you identify a scammer.
Many prospective birth mothers are legitimately desperate for money and may look to prospective adoptive parents to help with expenses. This is not unusual. After all, she is doing the hard work of carrying the baby only to place him or her for adoption.
However, other women are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the Bible warns us to be on our guard against such people. They claim to be birth mothers but may not be pregnant at all; they’re just trying to get potential adoptive parents to send them money.
Common Adoption Scams & How to Spot Them
1. The Avoider
Someone who does not want to give you contact information and insists you communicate by email could be a birth mother running a scam or may not even be pregnant. Carefully question any prospective birth mother who contacts you directly and prefers to work only through you. She may be afraid that an adoption professional will see right through her. A woman who is sincere about placing her child should be willing to provide her contact information and speak to your adoption professional.
2. The Sweet Talker
Be very cautious of the birth mother who overdoes it with compliments. She might say things like, “You’re so cute” or “You two make the perfect couple!” Her charm is her way of luring you into a sense of security before she demands money.
3. The Puppy Dog Sale
This scam involves accepting money from multiple families with no intention of placing the child for adoption. A few days after placing the child in the care of a prospective adoptive family, the birth mother demands more money. She knows that the adoptive couple has emotionally bonded with the child, and so they’re more likely to pay up. The next day she says she’s changed her mind and then takes the child to her next victim.
4. Psychological Fraud
Some perpetrators may not be birth mothers at all! They commit fraud not because of the money, but for attention or to cause harm. They’re desperately lonely and require psychological help. They know emotionally fragile adoptive parents will care deeply about them and talk to them when they call. They manipulate their victims into longing for the child and then harass them by threatening they’ll change their minds. The game stops when they are asked to document the pregnancy or to meet in person.
In addition, be cautious of the following “red flags” to watch for in birth mothers:
- Matches with you too quickly
- Will only agree to an adoption match if you send money
- Immediately asks for help with expenses
- Doesn’t show any interest in you or your family
- Makes you feel desperate
- Appears to be emotionally fragile
- Warns you that she’ll get an abortion or choose another family if you don’t send money
- Tells incredible and convincing hard-luck stories
- Seems detached from the pregnancy
- Focuses not on the baby but on herself
- Won’t let you speak to her doctor or tell you where she’s getting prenatal care
- Cries uncontrollably until you ask how much money she needs
“The Devil tempts us to destroy our faith, but God tests us to develop our faith, because a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. False faith withers in times of trial, but true faith takes deeper root, grows, and brings glory to God.”
Tragically, there are many people who use the name of our Lord to manipulate and cheat others. This world is full of rebellious and greedy individuals who will go to any length to make money. Sadly, Christian adoption is no exception. Many people use God’s Word and speak “Christianese” to dupe unwitting and desperate couples of their hard-earned money.
As Christians, we often want to believe in the best of people and that they are sincere, but we need to be alert. Don’t be in such a rush to adopt that you ignore important warning signs of common adoption scams. Some people really are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we need to be discerning.
Attempted fraud certainly does exist, and one must be careful. But such perpetrators actually pull off only a few of these scams. Lifetime has around a 95% success rate of the hundreds of adoptions we have completed through our center. Don’t be afraid to adopt, but be aware of the warning signs.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 15, 2018, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”