Families looking to adopt a child through an agency often find themselves somewhere near the bottom of a very long waiting list. Adoption agencies often encourage people to connect with expectant mothers directly, which means that more and more families are turning to social media to do so.
While many find success on social media, others may find themselves targeted by scammers and those who are looking to “catfish” them.
Many families have fallen victim to adoption catfishing scams online, and particularly Instagram adoption scams, according to a recent story in Parents magazine. The story focused on a couple who were contacted on Instagram by a person claiming to be an expectant mother in Atlanta who asked if they were still interested in adopting after seeing their social media posts. The couple in question used popular hashtags like #lookingtoadopt and #waitingtoadopt which reach a wide audience, including (unfortunately) those looking to take advantage of them.
After months of emotional text messages, photos, and other communication, the messages stopped, and their account was blocked. The couple realized that the entire thing was a cruel Instagram catfishing scam. Because no money exchanged hands, they had no real legal recourse.
If you’re a couple considering adoption, what is the best way to do it, and how can you identify potential scams? Read more to find out.
Best Practices for Adoption
To avoid as much conflict and strain as possible, follow these best practices if you’re considering adoption:
- Before beginning the process, make sure to speak with an adoption professional to learn about the process and your options.
- Thoroughly discuss and define the expectations on both sides before entering into an adoptive match.
- When possible, meet the expectant mother in person prior to the match.
- Always discuss financial needs or support of the expectant mother through your adoption professional and not with the person directly.
- Make sure the expectant mother has spoken with their own legal counsel about the nature and consequences of the consents.
- Give the expectant mother adequate time to complete the adoption consent paperwork.
- Save all copies of pertinent paperwork including consents, hospital correspondence, intake forms, and medical records.
How Can I Identify Potential Adoption Scams?
If you are one of the countless people who have turned to social media to try to adopt a child, watch for these red flags that might indicate a catfishing scheme or another scam:
- Examine the person’s social media profiles – Look at things like the age of the accounts, who they follow, and who follows them back. Look at the posts for comments and try to gauge whether this person is active on social media and if they have friends and family who communicate regularly with them, or if the profile was just set up for the purposes of communicating with others (potentially fraudulently).
- Verify their phone number – Once you have a contact number for them, verify that it is a real number (many scammers will use Google voice and other services to disguise their activities). You can use handy sites online to validate whether they are communicating with you through a real cell phone or a virtual number.
- Use Google to run a reverse image search – Scammers will usually have to use photos they’ve stolen from others. Use Google to run a reverse image search and see if the photos they’ve sent you are actually someone else’s.
- Crowdsource your investigation – There are many adoption message boards out there, and many of them have sections or focus wholly on warning other prospective adoptive parents about adoption scams. Others who’ve been scammed will post the names or pseudonyms of scammers and their methods to try to warn others.
Are You Looking to Adopt a Child in Huntsville? Contact New Beginnings Family Law for Help
For more than a decade, the family attorneys of New Beginnings Family law have helped couples in Huntsville and surrounding areas realize their dreams of becoming parents through adoption. We will discuss your expectations, help you understand the process, assist you with the necessary paperwork, and can advocate for you in front of an Alabama probate judge.