Archive for September, 2013

Google Image Search: A Tool for Scam Detection

I don’t know what it is about this year, but more than ever before I am seeing my adoptive-family clients getting contacted by adoption scammers. As a result, I’ve decided to write a series on adoption scams and how to detect them. You can see all the posts by going to the “Categories” column on the right and clicking “Adoption Scams.” Today’s post is the second installment.

As we know, adoption scammers are people who prey on prospective adoptive parents to get money or some kind of bizarre psychological thrill. Financial scammers generally start asking for money fairly early on in the process. Emotional scammers seem to thrive on the drama and attention and are a little harder to detect.

Many scammers send photos of themselves and/or ultrasound images. Generally, they have stolen these images from other people’s Facebook pages and websites. One tool that I frequently use to detect scammers is a simple Google Image Search. This search allows you to search the internet for a photo to see if it appears anywhere else on the Web.

To do an image search, simply go to Google’s image search site and click the camera icon on the right-hand side of the search bar. From there, click “Upload an Image” and select the photo that you want to search for. The search will also turn up similar-looking photos for you to compare. If the image turns up on a Facebook or other social media profile under a different name, beware! The scammer has probably stolen that photo, and the person in the photo is probably an innocent victim with no idea that their image is being used to scam adoptive parents.

For other red flags to help you detect adoption scams, check out this post and this post.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

New Series on Adoption Scams

I don’t know what it is about this year, but more than ever before I am seeing my adoptive-family clients getting contacted by adoption scammers. As a result, I’ve decided to write a series on adoption scams and how to detect them. You can see all the posts in the series by going to the “Categories” column on the right and clicking “Adoption Scams.”

What is an adoption scam? Essentially, it is a couple or individual who contact prospective adoptive parents saying that they would like to place a baby for adoption, when in fact they have no intention of doing so. While the Internet is a wonderful tool for adoption, it also leaves prospective adoptive parents especially vulnerable to these types of scams. My clients who have profiles on sites like Parent Profiles, Adoptimist, and even Facebook report especially high numbers of scam contacts. This certainly does not mean that you shouldn’t use the Internet in your search! Instead, just take a few precautions to protect yourself.

There are several types of adoption scams. The most common is one where a woman who is not actually pregnant contacts prospective adoptive parents and quickly selects them as the adoptive family for her “baby.” She then sends multiple requests for money, usually saying she is having some kind of crisis (getting evicted, getting her water shut off, having a medical emergency). Another scenario is one where the woman is actually pregnant, but has “selected” multiple adoptive families and is taking money from all of them or simply stringing them along. This is why we have the First Commandment of Adoption: Thou Shalt Not Give Any Birth Parent Money Unless It Goes Through Thy Lawyer.

An increasingly common type of scam, and one that is a little harder to detect, is the emotional scammer. In this type of scam, a woman who is either not pregnant or who has no intention of placing her baby for adoption strings couples along but never asks for money. Emotional scammers are severely psychologically disturbed people who simply like the attention and drama of deceiving prospective adoptive parents. The hallmark of the emotional scam is high drama: Usually these scammers have multiple dramatic life situations going on, such as medical emergencies, houses burning down, boyfriends leaving them, family members dying, etc. Interestingly, emotional scammers very frequently claim to be having twins and almost always claim high-risk pregnancies.

The very best way to find out whether a potential match is actually a scam is to work closely with a reputable adoption attorney or agency. Attorneys and agencies keep tabs on the common scams and know what red flags to look out for. This is another great reason to always use an attorney whose practice is at least 50% adoption. The adoption specialist will check the web and with other adoption professionals for scam information regularly. Another good way to learn about scammers is to join one of the several email lists where adoptive parents share the names and information of scammers who have contacted them. Often scammers change their names with every scam, but the basic story they tell will remain the same. These scam-information-sharing groups are indispensable for keeping tabs on the latest scammers.

For more on red flags that can indicate a scam, check out this post, and be sure to check out the rest of the blog series.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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