Searching for a family member-whether you are an adopted child or a birth family member-can be a difficult and tough road. While it is difficult because of the time and effort involved, there is an even harder aspect of this process. Emotional. Yes, emotions will be involved. Always. It is an emotional experience for everyone involved in the search and reunion process. And because it deals with strong and susceptible emotions, you need to be wary of scammers.
But because it is so emotionally taxing, it can be hard to spot a scammer before they've done damage to you. You'll find that you grow attached to this person claiming to be for whom you're looking. You'll want to do whatever you can for that person. You want that reconnection so badly that you immediately overlook any red flags that may be present. Sometimes it's hard to see the truth when you're so invested in a situation. It's important to become aware of some of the red flags before you get into a similar situation. Keep in mind that the below aren't catch-alls. You may find the person you're looking for, and they still may behave in an abusing manner towards you and your family.
One of the most common red flags for scammers is they will ask for money and items from you-from the very start of your correspondence. He or she may ask for a phone, clothing, groceries, or money for bills. He or she will usually not be shy about asking you for these things. And as much as you will want to help them out, it is important to really take a step back-in order to determine if he or she is a potential scammer.
When reconnecting with a family member, remember what information about you and the person for who you're looking is publicly available. Scammers are intuitive. And they are researchers. They will get as much information about you and the person for whom you're looking as they can. It would be helpful for you in your search if you retain certain pieces of information-information that both you and the person you're looking for would know-private. This way you can essentially quiz the person to see if they are being honest, upfront, and truthful.
Another red flag to be aware of is if the person becomes additionally defensive and contentious when they obviously don't know the answer to your question, or when you ask them for a DNA test to confirm relation. This can be a great indicator of a scammer because they can become easily flustered if they are presented with something for which they are unprepared. And most importantly, follow your gut. If something doesn't feel right, deeply analyze the situation. Take a step back, if you need to. Obtain a clear view of your situation and that other person.
While you don't have to be suspicious of every person who crosses your path, it is important to protect yourself. Be smart about reconnecting. It can make the difference between finding the person for whom you're looking and being taken advantage of by a scammer.
For those who are either currently searching for birth family or for those that are considering beginning a search there are a number of options. Over the next couple of months I will periodically focus on a specific search option...[more]
Today a person asked me what it was like to find my birth mother. I had a good experience so I described what it was like and it wasn’t a very exciting or emotional story. The person seemed a little disappointed it was just a rather dull story about how we exchanged letters and then eventually met in person. For me it wasn’t like a light bulb was suddenly switched on and my life was magically changed. There was no sun breaking through the clouds, no music playing and no fireworks exploding in the sky...[more]
Before beginning your search, learn about common myths about the reconnection process. That way, you'll have realistic expectations, and you can move forward from there.
Robyn writes, "How do I begin? I want to be available for my son to find me if he wants to. Which sites do you recommend I sign up on? " If you have feedback for Robyn, feel free to use the contact form below and we'll forward them to her.
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