Common Types of Adoption Scams and How to Legally Protect Yourself

Each year, over one million Americans begin the adoption process. It is long and arduous, often consisting of wait lists and uncertainty. Sometimes, it can even involve fraud. Adoption scams are more commonplace than most people realize. When proper legal courses aren’t followed, prospective parents and birth families alike can find themselves vulnerable to adoption scams. However, there are measures that can be taken to protect all parties from fraud.

First, let’s discuss what doesn’t constitute adoption fraud. Though it can be difficult, unfortunate circumstances can arise that could legally prevent a finalized adoption from occurring. For example, a birthmother is well within her rights to explore the possibility of adoption with one or more sets of adoptive parents and then change her mind before the child is born. She can even change her mind after placement and decide to parent the child herself, provided she does so before the end of the legal risk period.

An adoption scam does occur when a birthmothers, prospective parents, or an adoption professional intentionally deceives another party. This could be for financial gain or to simply feel a sense of satisfaction for having defrauded another person.

Birthmothers can defraud prospective parents by going through the motions of the adoption process while never intending to complete it. She may accept money from one or more prospects, leading them to believe she will adopt her child to them, but never follow through with the adoption. In some extreme cases, the birthmother may only be pretending to be pregnant while leading a family to believe she’s making an adoption plan with them.

To protect yourself from this particular scam, always be aware of the warning signs. If the birthmother doesn’t want to meet face to face, or is unwilling to provide you as a prospective parent with important information, such as names of doctors or clinics where she is receiving medical care, or documents that prove she is pregnant, proceed with caution. Always have all payments you make to the birthmother processed through your adoption attorney—never pay her directly.

Further, if she refuses to work through an attorney or adoption professional, that could indicate that she could be trying to defraud you. Red flags do not always mean that an adoption scam is taking place, but they should motivate you to ask more questions and familiarize yourself with your state’s adoption laws.

Adoption professionals can also commit fraud in a number of ways. The agency could charge fees for a service that is never rendered, or withhold important medical information about a child so that a prospective family would be more likely to adopt said child. An agency may also promise a birthmother that her medical expenses will be paid, but then renege on the promise when she no longer has parental rights.

Fortunately, it is easier to identify fraudulent agencies than it is to identify fraudulent individuals. Any licensed adoption agency will have their information readily available to you through a state licensing specialist. Through the specialist, you will be able to learn about any complaints or legal actions taken against a particular agency. Alternatively, you may consult with the Better Business Bureau to learn about any bad reports the agency may have.

Adoption laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to maintain a firm understanding of those laws and how they apply to you from the very beginning. In all cases, should you suspect that you’ve become a victim of adoption scamming, consult with an attorney immediately and report your suspicions to the Better Business Bureau and your state’s adoption licensing specialist.