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Pregnant Milwaukee woman shocked by phone call from stranger suggesting her baby would have autism

Posted at 11:17 AM, Jul 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 23:37:22-04

Courtny Gerrish will share more of Jamie's story later tonight on Live at 10.

A woman preparing to welcome a baby girl with her boyfriend was shaken by a call from a stranger suggesting her child would be born with autism.

Jamie Maciejewski and her boyfriend are getting ready to welcome their baby daughter.

In their excitement, Jamie has done what every pregnant mom does. She researched online and signed up for free baby stuff.

Soon after, she got a strange call from someone who suggested her child may have a disorder.

"I don't know who they said they were," she said, "it sounded like somebody from the hospital."

The caller then said something that scared her. 

"Are you prepared to care for a kid with autism?"

Jamie said she was shocked and froze up. She asked, "What are you talking about? I never got tests done or anything, nothing for that."

The caller tried to sell her additional tests for autism for thousands of dollars.

"I didn't want to even talk to them anymore about it," Jamie said, and she hung up.

She automatically questioned whether her baby had autism.  Her nurse practitioner explained there's no test, at this stage, for the disorder.  

It can't be screened for during pregnancy, because autism is a developmental disorder.  Kate Stuewe, a genetics counselor at Aurora, said autism is very complex. There are more than 1,000 different genes that might be related.

She added, "Less than five percent of individuals affected with autism or who are on the spectrum have a known genetic cause."

Stuewe warns people should be leery of this type of offer for medical tests, "They try to use unsubstantiated science or technology or research to promote a test," she said.

Jamie is still wondering how the caller knew she was pregnant.

Emory Roane is with the non-profit group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse which is based out of San Diego. Roane said there is a whole industry around this, and it is almost impossible for Americans to know what information they're leaving behind.

"It might be from your online web traffic," he said, "it might be from your Facebook posts. It might be from your purchase history."

Roane points out there is a multi-billion dollar industry devoted to building profiles on consumers, and it's loosely regulated.

"Consumers are sort of left out in the open as far as their options or protections in the ad tech and in the online tracking world," he said.

Jamie said she signed up for some free baby items, which she never got. She is not sure if that is connected, but she has not clicked on any links since.

She hopes other expectant moms don't fall for the offer, "If they get the call to not believe it or freak out."