Women around the country are falling victim to a cruel and bizarre scam in which they are being manipulated into believing they are about to adopt a baby that does not exist, the Post and Courier reports.
The scammers, as Jezebel notes, are not usually seeking money — but are in it to cause emotional pain. About a dozen women are believed to be involved in the ring, which dupes prospective adopting parents into preparing to take home a nonexistent baby.
The Post and Courier covers the case of a woman named Melissa Carroll, who believed she was in communication with young woman named Avalyn. “Avalyn” told her she was a college student struggling with raising one child, and couldn’t afford a second. At one point, Carroll received the following texts:
“I am having contractions”
“Im at the hospital”
“I am at 4cm and they have sent me home again. I am miserable.”
At this point, Carroll bought $800-worth of baby supplies — diapers, baby wipes, bottles and baby clothes.
But the text messages and communications with Avalyn abruptly stopped, as though she had disappeared. Because, well, she had.
“Avalyn” didn’t exist and neither did the baby Carroll was preparing to adopt.
“I fell for it hook, line and sinker,” Carroll told the Post and Courier. According to the paper, the scammers “troll popular adoption websites; pass along phony ultrasound images; spin convincing, although fake, sob stories; even pretend like they’re writhing in labor, only to vanish when their lies fall apart or they grow tired of the game.”
Disturbingly, they are often ” content to toy with their emotions, to exploit their vulnerabilities for the sheer sport of breaking some stranger’s heart.”
Because they rarely steal anything, they rarely face consequences. Their actions, while reprehensible, don’t always cross into criminal law territory, depending on the state.
“But it’s seriously sick and messed up,” Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center in North Carolina told the Post and Courier.
Another victim, in Southern California, reported the scam to police, but they told her breaking a heart is not illegal.
“She told me lies for 36 hours,” Joanna, who asked the paper not to use her last name, said. “What she did was so cruel and it made me so angry and so hurt that I actually thought less of all humans for a while.”