Doula Scams? Creepy Phone Calls? Birth Fetishists? Oh My!
This one is for all my doula siblings.
And I will do my best to keep it updated as I see new scams go around.
Birth Fetishists have an obsession with either birth, pregnancy, breastfeeding and/or circumcision. A quick google of the term "birth fetish" will bring up a whole bunch of threads from people who have these obsessions (do not do this unless you want to have an upset stomach). They can be male or female. Many have an obsession with the idea of pushing out a baby or crowing.
It doesn't matter if you are a brand new doula, or a senior doula who has been in business for several years. You are going to get weird phone calls and emails. Perhaps even Facebook messages.
It starts out great. You are super excited about an inquiry from a potential client. And then this weird feeling hits your gut after you begin talking to them for a bit, and before you know it you get the heebeejeebees and trying to figure out how to back out of this conversation you seem to have been cornered in.
The "I am in labor" scammer
This was probably the first message I received.
I got an email around 9:45 at night asking about my services and seeing if I had time to chat. It was an odd hour but I thought "sure, why not?" I had just moved to Olympia and it was my first doula inquiry since moving here.
Assuming I was going to get a phone call, I made sure my kids were in bed. But this person wanted to chat on google hangouts. I asked about when they were due and they're response was that they were passed their due date and they think they are in labor. First red flag. I asked about where they were planning on giving birth, they said at home. Then I asked about if they had a midwife and they said they had a labor support team and they felt like they had to push. Another red flag. Then they asked what it feels like when a baby comes out. And I am done.
I responded with, "I am afraid with out knowing any of your prenatal history or information, I can't help you. I wish you all the best."
I blocked them, shut down my computer and turned off my phone. The next morning I did a quick google search of this persons email and I am not the first person to be contacted and probably not the last.
Emails people have been contacted from for this scam:
The "moving from another country" scammer
Myself, and several doulas around the states got this email. So I pried a little further. Sent them my rates and let them know I was available. The email I got back was that their "associate" would mail my fee. They also asked for my full name, address and social security number for a "background check." I didn't give to them because I don't want my identity stolen but what usually happens in cases like this is they send you a fake cashiers check for over your fee and ask you to wire them back the remainder. A few days later your cashiers check bouces because it was a fake and you are out a few grand.
The Creepy Creepy Phone Call
I got a call from what I thought was a woman. The individual on the other line had a very heavy accent and I actually got really excited when they referred to their wife because I thought they were a queer couple. Nope.
First they asked my fee and if I was available around their due date. Okay that's normal. Then they asked me if I was married and for how long. I answered and they referred to my spouse as my husband. Then they asked me if I had children and their ages. I answered vaguely because now I was getting weird vibes. That's when they jumped right into the questions about breastfeeding and asked me to explain in detail about how I could help their wife breastfeed. I responded with "this is something I discuss prenatally with clients, would you like to set up an interview?" (My wife is standing in the door way motioning for me to hang up the phone. She knew from the tone in my voice what was happening) Then they asked about circumcision and if my son was circumcised. I deferred back to my previous statement. They started pushing more for me to answer the circumcision question. Asking for details about how it's done, why they should or shouldn't do it. Suddenly I just said, "if you would like to schedule an interview we can schedule that, but I have a meeting I need to get to." They hung up.
"Oops I texted the wrong number"
You get text from someone wanting to complain about breastfeeding or circumcision, and they immediately send another text saying it's the wrong number. DO NOT ENGAGE! I repeat DO NOT ENGAGE!
This person communicates with doulas via facebook and pretends like they are in labor. Similar or evolved from the person who I chatted with via google hangouts.
The Hearing Impaired
I am really upset about this person for exploiting the deaf community. It is not okay to pretend to be hearing impaired just to get your jollies off. I haven't experienced this personally but other doulas I know have.
They text and say they can not talk on the phone because they are hearing impaired and that they are looking for postpartum support. Then they ask for your home address and a picture of your family. (DON'T GIVE THEM EITHER!!!!)
What you can do to keep yourself safe
You deserve to be safe. Always take precautions. Unless someone was referred to you from someone you personally know, always proceed with caution.
- Try to book an in person meeting. If they keep brushing it off, keep pushing it.
- Always do interviews in a public location. Your safety comes first. Especially if you are visibly pregnant.
- If they are real, they will book it, and if not they will get annoyed and go away.
- Do a Facebook search
- Do they have any pictures? What about friends and posts? Mutual friends?
- Google search if Facebook turns up nothing
- Sometimes people will post their encounters online when they have had this kind of contact.
These kinds of encounters usually leave me with a feeling of severe discomfort and violation. I hope I can prevent you from feeling the same. If you have had any of these sort of encounters, please email me with your story so I can add to this post for others to reference if they feel as though they are being scammed. You can also feel free to tell your story below in the comments.