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Adoption Scams: Take measures to protect yourself and your family.

in Protecting Your Identity
Adoption Scams

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines adoption fraud as “any form of intentional misrepresentation or illegal act in the area of adoption. Any participant involved in an adoption — birth parents, prospective adoptive parents, and adoption service providers.” Unfortunately, scammers have found ways to take advantage of this highly personal, emotional experience.

If you or anyone you know is or soon to be involved in the adoption process, it’s imperative to know how to identify common adoption scams and ways to prevent them.

Adoption Scams

There are multiple reasons why seniors are often the target of scams.

  • False or double matching: False matching happens when adoptive parents are matched to a fraudulent mother, a woman who is not pregnant, or a mother who does not ever intend to place her baby up for adoption. Double matching occurs when more than one set of adoptive parents is matched to one baby.
  • Prepayment: This occurs when adoption agencies, brokers, or lawyers ask adoptive parents to pay large amounts of money regularly, or a large sum upfront, and then fail to render the services they promised and/or goes out of business. Adoption can come with a hefty price tag, but if an agency is asking for money in the 5-figure range up front, this should be a red flag.
  • Emotional scammer: This scam is based on emotions, rather than money, but can be equally as devastating. A pregnant woman (or a woman pretending to be pregnant) will lure adoptive parents in to gain sympathy, attention, and pity.
  • Scams targeting birth mothers: Some adoption scams are not just against prospective adoptive parents. Birth mothers can also be targets. Women are coerced and convinced to give their babies up for adoption when they don’t have a desire to do so. Some scammers target both birth mothers and adoptive parents in the same scam.

How to Recognize Adoption Scams

Paying attention to these warning signs, as well as following your instincts, will help protect you from falling prey to adoption scams.

Warning Signs for Adoptive Parents

Many of the warning signs for prospective adoptive parents stem from how fees and communication are handled.

  • Fees: An individual or agency is asking for all fees to be paid immediately, is quoting inconsistent or exorbitant fees, or is tacking on additional fees throughout the process.
  • Communication: An individual or agency is aggressive, hurried, hard to reach, or controlling. They may prey on your emotions, force you to sign papers you don’t understand or agree with, make (false) guarantees, will only communicate virtually, and/ or be difficult to contact.

Warning Signs for Birth Parents

Similar warning signs apply to birth parents in the adoption process. If at any point, a birth parents feels pressured, coerced, or manipulated, she should ask for help.

With a scam, a birth parent may also be told she has to repay all her expenses if she changes her mind, or she feel as though she doesn’t have a say in who adopts her baby. Birth parents may also be asked to sign misleading/confusing paperwork regarding the pregnancy/adoption.

6 Tips for Preventing Adoption Scams

Fortunately, many successful adoptions happen every year, both domestically and internationally, with children being successfully placed into loving homes. Knowing how to spot red flags ahead of time will help to prevent fraud and to ensure a successful adoption.

Fortunately, many successful adoptions happen every year, both domestically and internationally, with children being successfully placed into loving homes. Knowing how to spot red flags ahead of time will help to prevent fraud and to ensure a successful adoption.

  1. Get educated. There is a wealth of information available online for prospective adoptive parents. This website was created to help both birth families and adoptive families learn more about completing the adoption process. You should also get familiar with your state’s adoption laws, particularly when it comes to transferring money for adoption.
  2. Use reputable professionals. The National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Search can help you locate reputable agencies and child welfare organizations. Whether you choose a local or regional agency, ensure they are well-reviewed and reputable. Also, be sure to check the background and experience of any other professionals you work with, such as adoption facilitators and attorneys.
  3. Build in-person relationships. Your working relationships may begin over the phone or through email, but relationships should move to in-person, if at all possible. There should also be regularly scheduled meetings between all parties to ensure things are going smoothly and according to plan.
  4. Request proof of pregnancy. A pregnancy verification letter should be obtained from the birth mother’s physician. This letter will include the woman’s estimated due date, the facility where the confirmation took place, and who the attending physician was. Be aware that ultrasounds and medical reports can be falsified.
  5. Protect yourself financially. Adoptions can be very expensive. It’s important to protect yourself financially if an issue occurs somewhere in the process. On top of the emotional heartache, you don’t want to also be left with any financial pitfalls.
  6. Keep your emotions in check. Don’t ignore any uncomfortable feelings and trust your intuition. Ask a loved one to be a voice of reason throughout the process. Don’t be reactionary or act too quickly.

Partner With a Trusted Financial Advocate Like Lafayette Federal

At Lafayette Federal Credit Union, we know that the rise of online scams puts more and more people at risk of financial fraud every day. We care about our members’ online and financial safety, and our team members are trained to help you spot potential scams or abuse that could harm your financial wellbeing.

If you have concerns about a potential scam or believe you may be a victim to one, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Come into a branch or learn more about protecting your identity online at Lafayette Federal.

Not a Lafayette Federal member yet? You can become a member by completing an online membership application.

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