Officials investigate bizarre adoption ad
KIWI FILM star Keisha Castle-Hughes has been unwittingly dragged into an international baby adoption scam, which is now being investigated by New Zealand authorities.
by Catherine Woulfe - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 05 October 2008
A picture of the famous young mother is being used by a person calling herself Brenda, who is advertising a baby for adoption on New Zealand classifieds website adoos.co.nz.
Adoption advertisements are illegal in New Zealand (unless placed by a child welfare officer) but the adoos.co.nz site is hosting about a dozen with taglines such as "will you be my new parents" and "good and healthy baby for adoption". Would-be parents are instructed to email for details.
CYFS' Adoption Advisory Service says it is investigating the advertisements.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Development Niels Reinsborg says anyone seeing similar advertisements should report them to the police.
Ministry of Consumer Affairs spokeswoman Liz Stretton points out that the advertisements are written in poor English and are very likely fake.
They could be a bid to collect email addresses, and eventually money, from people desperate to be parents.
"They'd be aiming to extract money. They'd be building up to people wanting to send money to get more information, or meet the baby, I would say."
The ministry runs a site called Scamwatch that tracks online scams and provides advice, but Stretton says it has not come across anything like this before.
Neither had Castle-Hughes' agent, Gail Cowan. She said the use of her client's picture was "just extraordinary" but did not want to comment as by the time she checked the website, the advertisement had been pulled.
The picture of Castle-Hughes was taken at the New Zealand premiere of North Country, in January 2006.
It appears under the tagline "affectionate baby for adoption" and is followed by this explanation: "I am brenda and i have with me my beautiful baby here which i really want to adopt to a loving and caring parent due to circumstances at beyond my reach if you really know you sincerely wanting to adopt my baby and take like your own baby, then do not hesitate to mail me for more information".
The Star-Times emailed this advertiser but did not receive a reply.
No other contact details are provided other than the baby's location Auckland.
No other stars are featured in the NZ baby advertisements but two pictures of real children are used one toddler wears a red T-shirt, is holding a bottle and sitting on a couch; the other, a baby, is wearing a hat and sitting in a bright green swimming pool toy.
The advertisement for this girl calls her "Kyvonna" and says she is from Cooks Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. But the picture, and international phone number provided, also appear on a baby advertisement on the United Kingdom's Adoos site this time giving the location as Caddington, Bedfordshire.
The phone number is also provided on an African church ministry's advertisement, which says it has "healthy children" available for adoption.
Readers are asked to call the number to get in touch with the ministry's adoption lawyer in the UK.
adoos.co.nz did not respond to the Sunday Star-Times' request for comment, sent through their online query function on Wednesday. The site provides no other contact details.