Approximately a dozen women are reportedly scamming unsuspecting females into adopting non-existent babies.
These scammers look for victims on adoption websites, use fake ultrasound pictures, create false tales of sorrow, pretend they are going into labor and suddenly drop out of sight, leaving the adoptive parents crushed, The Post and Courier reports.
Some of the scammers attempt to get free money and gifts from their victims, but many of the fakers are allegedly intentionally causing emotional pain.
Emotional scammers are rarely caught, live out of state and may not be technically breaking the law by crushing someone's hopes.
Ray Godwin, an adoption lawyer in Greenville, South Carolina, alleged that a woman named Kayla Roach has scammed his clients.
However, 21-year-old Roach denied the accusations.
Roach lives in Oconee County, South Carolina, as does another alleged scammer, 42-year-old April Renee Lusk.
"It’s definitely not me," Lusk told the The Post and Courier in a phone interview before quickly hanging up.
"I get a call about her, generally, every couple of months," Emily McDaniel Barrett, an adoption lawyer, claimed. "She’s driving everybody nuts."
Investigators charged Lusk in 2011 with second-degree harassment after convincing a woman she met on Facebook that she (Lusk) had cancer, which was not true. Lusk pleaded guilty and paid a small fine.
However, Lusk has not been charged with any adoption scams.
A handful of adoption scammers have been prosecuted, but David Farquhar of the FBI’s Intellectual Property and Cyber-Enabled Crimes Unit said: "If you’re just wasting their time and lying to them, it’s probably not a crime. If you’re intentionally inflicting emotional distress on people because that’s what you enjoy doing ... that may fall under some of the cyberstalking laws."
Signs of scams include: questionable email address or subject line, request for money, generic messages and a one-way street (relationship) between the birth parent and prospective adoptive parent, America Adopts! notes.
To avoid being the victim of a scam, the site recommends setting up a phone conversation, getting confirmation of pregnancy with an ultrasound (although it could be someone's else's ultrasound), speaking to the birth mother's doctor and involving adoption professionals in the process.
(Note: The woman in the above picture is not connected with any kind of fraud and was actually pregnant.)