You’re never too old to be scammed if you’re an adoptee.
Me, I’m the old granny who’s been searching for a bazillion years and have yet to find even one single biological relative, living or dead, who resembles the woman named as my birth mother on my original birth certificate. Not one single piece of paper has yet surfaced to prove that MARGARET M. WALKER, my birth mother, ever drew a breath on this planet.
I wasn’t a foundling, but I could have been. Every piece of my original identity was eradicated or falsified.I was a black market baby - a private adoption where all traces of my original identity have been obliterated with fiction.
Okay, now you know my background so I can tell you the story of The Birthday Bandit.
During my years of extensive searching, I had signed on to every message board and registry list you can find on the Internet. Every now and then I receive an email from someone who says they can help me find my birth mother.These are searchers looking for business. I’ve got nothing against them - I’ve hired many searchers and private investigators in my time.
Recently, however, I was approached by a woman, let’s call her Joan, who said she had seen my message on an Indiana message board. She said she, too was searching. Her mother had been adopted and she was helping her mother to find her adopted sibling. This woman thought I might be that sibling.
So Joan and I exchanged a few introductory emails in which she asked me if I had any pictures of myself. You bet, I replied. I immediately emailed several jpegs of myself and my family members - lickety split. She didn’t have the capability to send me any photos.
Joan replied to my jpegs with enthusiasm beyond belief. Wow! My picture looks just like her mother. Why even her grandchildren said, “That lady looks just like Grandma.” We then talked on the telephone where Joan continued to enthusiastically rave about the amazing likeness of her mother and me. Joan told me that her fondest dream was to find her mother’s sibling in time for her mother’s birthday. What a wonderful daughter, thought I.
Now Joan suggested it was time to “take it to the next level.” Let’s exchange documents, she said. By this time, I was ready to exchange a kidney just to see her family photos. The very next day, I packed up copies of every single document I have and sent it off. Then I sat down to wait for Joan’s. She said she would send me family photos plus copies of old letters salvaged from a relative’s attic - letters which talked about the adopted sibling. Joan was going to send them all to me so we could compare and decide how to proceed. And I’m just getting dumber and dumber, all with stars in my eyes.
I was extremely excited. Miracles do happen, right? Lots of people do find each other on the Internet, right?
So I waited and waited and waited some more. Nothing came from Joan. Time went on and still nothing came from Joan - not even an acknowledgment of receipt of the packet of the documents I had sent to her.
Finally, reason ( and a skeptical friend) took over where my desperate wishful thinking had previously ruled. I finally began to worry about the advisability of sending all of my birth documents to a perfect stranger. Really stupid, right?! So I emailed Joan, expressing concern. Did she receive my letter? Were where the letters and photos she was going to send to me?
I received a reply that can only be described as very bizarre. Joan wished me a happy birthday ( what birthday? My birthday was months away) and told me how sorry she was about my family problems (what problems?) and said she’d get on it right away and send me her mother’s papers.
Now I thought that Joan was either a complete nutter or a liar who cannot keep her lies straight. But still I waited. And still - nothing arrived by snail or Internet.
By now I’m awake nights knowing how incredibly stupid I was for sending all those personal documents to a complete stranger. The real possibility of Identity theft was uppermost in my mind and causing me no end of nightmares.
Once more I wrote to Joan. I said her that her silence told me that there was no connection between her mother and me. I assured her that was okay - it happened a lot and I understood. “So please,” I asked, “just return my packet of documents.”
Another apologetic email arrived - so sorry. She must have mixed me up with someone else. And she hoped my husband was recovering from his accident. (what accident?!) But not to worry. She would “forward” the info to me.
I replied, saying I wanted nothing forwarded. I wanted my own packet of information returned to me, asap. I sent an itemized list and even suggested she keep all the papers together in the original envelope I sent. All she had to do, I said, was put a label over her address and write in my name.
Since then, I have received one more email from Joan. Oh my, she wrote, you sound so angry. I guess you don’t want to take our investigation any further. I really thought you did. Well, so be it, she concluded. She was so sorry because she did think there was some similarity between photos. ( Some similarity? On the telephone she told me the resemblance was so strong that if she placed my photo over one of her mother’s, they looked the same.) But....since I’m angry and don’t want to go forward, she would send me back the information I requested. Not to worry.
Well, boo hoo. I grew up in a family that ran peoples’ entire lives with guilt. This I can spot a mile away!
Nevertheless, I’m still waiting and I am still worrying!
I can only pray that Joan isn’t into identity theft. I have concluded that Joan is a liar whose M.O is to prey on adoptees like myself who are willing to throw all caution to the wind when someone offers even a teeny glimpse of hope. People like me who would fall down just to nibble up a few crumbs.
I’m thinking (actually hoping) that Joan is a searcher/liar who poses as a possible relative. Once she gets the documents, she runs them through her databases and then goes to town charging you for any information she has located. I’m not in any databases (I could have told her that right off and saved her a lot of trouble) so she just brushed me away and went on to other victims, telling lies in order to ingratiate herself into adoptees’ lives - all to make a buck.
I hate liars! But I am angry at myself too. I’ve been in the adoption “business” long enough to know about all the people there are who prey on vulnerable adoptees. But a chance to spark that light at the end of my tunnel seemed worth anything to me - even the abandonment of all reason.
As of this date, I’m still waiting. Stay tuned.
MORAL OF THE STORY
DO NOT SEND ANY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION YOU HAVE TO PEOPLE WHO APPROACH YOU FIRST AS IF YOU’RE A RELATIVE. BE VERY CAUTIOUS. ASK FOR THEIR PROOFS FIRST AND BE WARY IF THEY CANNOT OFFER ANY.