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A screenshot of Samantha and Dave's InstagramImage copyrightSAMANTHA STEWART

When US couples want to adopt a baby they often post ads online and search social media for women pregnant with a child they aren’t planning to keep. Sometimes it works – but there are dangers. One young scammer has tricked countless couples, just for fun, by stealing the identity of a pregnant woman.

It’s early February 2019, half way through one of the coldest Michigan winters in recent history. The grey sky threatens snow.

Thirty-three-year-old Samantha Stewart is in her pyjamas at home in Wixom, just outside Detroit, doing Sunday morning chores. There’s a full washing basket, a house to be cleaned and dogs to walk. It’s just after 11:00 when she receives a direct message request on Instagram from @ashleymamabear2019.

It’s not anyone she knows – but she accepts the message and starts reading.

“Are you looking to adopt still?” are the opening words.

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