Every Day The Are New Anti-Scam Groups Created On Social Media
Sadly, Almost All Of Them Are Amateurs And Poorly Managed
However, as the world leader in supporting traumatized scam victims SCARS wants to help spread professionalism and knowledge to help amateur groups better help the victims in their care.
This SCARS Guide will be presented in several parts as there is much to explain and share about competent crime victims’ assistance, compliance, and duty of care.
DISCLAIMER: This is being presented to help those who are well-intentioned to do a better job. This does not constitute legal advice, and all amateur groups are advised to discuss their practices and potential liability with a suitable attorney. Failure to do so may place the creators of such groups in legal jeopardy and significant liability. We also recommend that all groups maintain a minimum of US$1 million in liability insurance, especially if they are not incorporated. Amateur groups can easily be sued for malpractice, or incur fines for operations without proper licenses.
What Is A Support Group Really?
Support groups are an integral part of the recovery process. They should never be a group focused on hating & punishing scammers.
The benefit of a support group is that it allows people to interact with others who understand what they are going through can help end the negative effects of isolation and shame that is so often caused by victimization. But there is an important fundamental in that – they should be focused on recovery and be limited in who can join a group. In other words, a group should be for victims only, or only for another type of person. Mixing the membership of a group will inhibit free and open discussion.
Groups offer a forum to share and learn new behavior management strategies and coping skills (at least this is what they should be,) raise awareness to prevent recidivism, and make life-long connections. Starting a group takes dedication and commitment to care, ethics, and standards, by doing so, you’ll help yourself and others recover from their experience – if you are committed to doing the right things.
Just because someone is a scam victim does not mean they truly understand the issues that victims face.
What Is Your Mission?
Let’s begin by being blunt, even if you disagree with this section you are obligated to recognize that this is the best practice in the care and support of scam victims.
Crime victims’ assistance is a profession, it is not something for anyone that is driven to do something. Regardless of what you think you are doing or why, you are a beacon to scam victims who will come to you for help.
Many of these groups are created by scams victim that believes that no one is doing anything and that they can make a difference. Or they believe they will get all scammers arrested and save all victims. This is neither the right motivation or the way to help other victims.
There are established professional standards, best practices, duty-of-care, and in many places licensing involved in this work regardless of what you may think. If you operate without regard to these issues you may find that you have violated numerous local laws and are not caring for or helping the victims that come to you.
Your mission should be two-fold:
- Provide a way for victims to find competent information and assistance. You are most probably not sufficiently knowledgeable to originate it, but you certainly can share it from reliable sources and refer victims to it – such as the information from this website.
- Do no more harm than has already been done. No amateur antiscam group that we know of really follows this rule. None of them are created or managed by professionals with the understanding of trauma-informed support that victims need, or the true understanding of what victims have experienced during and after the scam. You have to be honest about this issue. You may want to help, but you are probably not trained to provide it. Empathy is not enough, because in the case of trauma there are times when empathy and compassion may not be the right thing.
It is important to understand two basic principles:
- Every victim of a relationship scam is traumatized. Not necessarily mentally ill, but traumatized. The extent and how it displays itself is for mental health professionals or those trained in trauma-informed support to determine. It is not your job to diagnose anyone, just accept that trauma is there and make sure the victim is referred to a competently qualified trauma professional.
- The actions of your group can help victims better understand or it can cause more harm. This is very real and we are fairly sure that you do not want to cause more harm. But this also applies to you and your admins or moderators too. Trauma is contagious – called vicarious trauma. If you are also a victim and you are trying to help other victims you can easily make your situation much worse.
Always suggest that all scam victims see a local trauma counselor or therapist. Why? Because trauma is not always easy to detect and responses can be misleading, and appear to be something else. But almost every scam victim is going to have experienced some trauma, and it does not go away. Failing to deal with it can make it worse. Here is a link you can share that is one of the best directories for trauma counselors or therapists: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/trauma-and-ptsd
Do No Harm
This seems obvious. That you should not make the situation worse for a scam victim. But in reality, this is very hard. The reasons are many, but it all comes back to trauma.
People respond to trauma in many different ways and the hints can be very subtle and difficult to recognize. If you are not trained in trauma-informed support you will not know this.
After the scam ends, victims go through parallel processes: withdrawal from hormonal addiction (over-stimulation); the normal grief cycle; and trauma.
Coming down off of the hormonal addition typically is over in a few weeks unless the person substitutes another form of stimuli, such as rebounding into another scam, jumping on online dating, or other high-risk behavior.
The grief cycle is more complex and every victim takes their own time working through it, though many will get stuck in denial and anger. However, trauma is the lasting challenge and each victim can respond differently.
An important point that you (and all victims) must understand is that not all victims can be helped in a support context. In fact, we estimate that only about 30% can. Victims are approximately divided into equal thirds: one third in denial (flight or freeze responses); one third in anger (fight responses); and one third with reasonable resiliency who are able to follow a program and work through their grief and trauma realistically. This is to say that most victims will fail to recover in a reasonable timeframe and amateur groups play a large role in causing this. You have the chance to be different.
Victim Suicide Risk
Scam victims are at high risk of suicide.
A significant percentage of victims are thinking about taking their own lives. Without proper care, anti-scam groups can worsen this by creating increased feelings of despair and hopelessness. Amateur anti-scam groups often paint a picture that no one is doing anything, that scamming is completely out of control, and that victims have nowhere to turn. All false.
About 12-20 scam victims take their lives every day, so real attention must be made to identifying victims in this state, There are only two things you should ever do for someone like this:
- Keep them talking. Talk or chat about their lives, their family, even about their experience, but keep focusing on how they are strong and will make it through this.
- Refer them to a crisis hotline service in their region or country. Suicide prevention, done properly requires training and even certification. You can help talk them down off of the edge, but get them in the hand of people who know what they are doing as quickly as possible.
This is one of the two major points of aggression in the anti-scam groups. Most groups created by victims mistakenly believe that exposing scammers does something fundamental. It does not. In fact, it can cause great harm.
What Good Does It Do?
It does two things potentially good.
- It can help a victim recognize that they have been scammed and are not alone, and that their scammer wasn’t the only one.
- It can help with the removal of fake profiles on social media – if, and only if the group members are consistently participating in reporting them.
What It Does Not Do?
- It does nothing to get scammers arrested
- It does nothing to stop scammers
- It does nothing to shame scammers
- It does nothing to prevent scams
- Helps victims avoid re-scamming in some cases
How It Harms?
Trauma is not caused by the scam, it is the person’s reaction to the scam. In other words, someone who is very resilient can go through a traumatic experience and come out of it quickly and whole. But this is not the case with the majority of humans. Therefore, almost all victims carry significant trauma.
Academic studies have established a clear connection between viewing perpetrator photos and increased or worsened trauma responses. Exposing scammers does almost nothing but expose them to traumatized victims.
How can this manifest?
- Scam victims will naturally be angry, this is a normal stage of grief. But if the focus of that anger is constantly present (in other words, the scammer photos) then they may not move past anger. This anger can easily evolve into rage and hate – totally unhealthy responses.
- Some scam victims will be triggered to a freeze response when they see scammer photos. In many cases, these responses can be made significantly worse by repeated triggers, such as in anti-scam groups.
- It reinforces the urban legend that exposing scammers helps to fight them or get them arrested, and when this inevitably fails can result in other issues such as depression or other responses.
- It also keeps the victims’ attention away from real recovery programs and support.
All of these can do lasting harm to victims and even yourself.
It also tends to create a climate of hopelessness. Constantly seeing the endless stream of scammers’ faces tends to create the lasting and devastating impression that nothing is being done. That this is never-ending. When in fact, great progress is being made.
One of the great challenges of almost all amateur anti-scam groups is that they are started by victims. The creation – the compulsion to do something – anything is in fact a trauma response. Yet few have any idea that they are traumatized and that they reacting predictably, but also incorrectly for their recovery.
This certainty that you are going to help others and save the world is (in many cases – though not all) called Savior Syndrome, a trauma fight response. Unfortunately, just because someone is the victim of a crime does not mean they know anything about criminology or victimology. Yet they think they are instant experts. And this only gets worse over time, as they interact with more and more victims.
This constant interaction with victims easily produces increased trauma – but in this case, it is not the primary trauma from the scam, but rather it is vicarious trauma. We urge you to look it up. But we will talk about how to recognize it and reduce its effects, so that you can better help others.
Vicarious Trauma: Signs And Strategies For Coping
How to cope with the aftermath of traumatic incidents and spot the signs of trauma in those who have been involved in caring for others.
Vicarious trauma is a process of change resulting from empathetic engagement with trauma survivors.
Anyone who engages empathetically with survivors of traumatic incidents, torture, and material relating to their trauma, is potentially affected, including doctors and other health professionals.
Common Signs Of Vicarious Trauma
If you are currently or have recently been working with survivors of traumatic incidents or torture survivors, you should be aware of the following signs:
- experiencing lingering feelings of anger, rage, and sadness about the victim’s victimization
- becoming overly involved emotionally with the victim
- experiencing bystander guilt, shame, feelings of self-doubt
- being preoccupied with thoughts of victims outside of the work (group) situation
- over-identification with the victim (having horror and rescue fantasies)
- loss of hope, pessimism, cynicism
- anger and aggression directed at those you claim to be helping
- distancing, numbing, detachment, cutting patients off, staying busy
- avoiding listening to victim’s stories of traumatic experiences
- difficulty in maintaining professional boundaries with the client, such as overextending self (trying to do more than is in the role to help the victim)
If you are experiencing any of these signs, this could indicate that you are suffering from vicarious trauma.
Strategies For Reducing The Risk Of Vicarious Trauma
If you feel you may be suffering from vicarious trauma, try following these coping strategies to reduce the risks.
- Increase your self-observation – recognize and chart your signs of stress, vicarious trauma, and burnout
- Take care of yourself emotionally – engage in relaxing and self-soothing activities, nurture self-care
- Don’t spend all of your time online in your group
- Look after your physical and mental wellbeing
- Maintain a healthy work/life balance – have outside interests
- Be realistic about what you can accomplish – avoid wishful or obsessive thinking
- Don’t take on responsibility for your group member’s well-being but supply them with tools to look after themselves (that you can find from other professionals – remember that you are not an expert)
- Balance your load – mix of more recovery information and fewer scammers
- Take regular breaks, take time off when you need to – spend a day away from your group – it will survive
- Seek social support from colleagues, family members – SCARS is here as a resource for those that really want to help ethically and professionally
- Use peer support and opportunities to decompress
- Take up training opportunities – have your admins and moderators read this too!
- Don’t let the tone of your group become negative – this will come back on you!
Part 1 Summary
The most important things for your to know initially are:
- You are not an expert – don’t try to represent yourself as one – instead, be a place for victims to talk about themselves and not about random scammers
- There will be victims you cannot help – be honest with yourself about this, and establish boundaries and rules to treat everyone fairly
- You have to stay even-tempered and do no harm when at all possible – recognize that you are dealing with people in the worst time of their lives
- If you cannot help someone, do not just block them, make an effort to refer them to professional help – either medical, mental health, legal, financial, or support (such as SCARS)
- Avoid anything that can increase the trauma of victims in your care and to yourself
- Maintain the confidentiality of information that victims share – unless they expressly give permission for other use – make sure that your group is private and that you are not serving them up to more scammers
- Do not engage in any professionally licensed activities in any form if you do not have that license – this can land you in jail – if you do not know where the lines are then stay well away from them
- Ethics matters – if you engage in any form of deception (such as scambaiting) you are breaching the trust of the victims in your care and doing what scammers do
- Encourage every group member to:
- Block all access from the scammers
- Report the crime – if it involved money, report to the local police, otherwise to the FBI, FTC, or national police – reporting matters
- Refer them to the free reliable authoritative information that SCARS publishes on www.RomanceScamsNOW.com
- Suggest that all members should see a trauma counselor or therapist for an evaluation
- Share their story and help them to participate regularly
- Make sure that you actively screen for scammers and fakes trying to enter your group – if you do not know how to reliably spot them, then you have a serious problem
- Make sure your liability is properly covered and that you fully understand what you cannot do
Remember, if you really do not have the skills or ability to do this right, it is better to stop and walk away. Talk to us, we can help you stay involved and improve your group, or walk away and make sure the victims in your group are cared for.
There are groups we have blacklisted because of inappropriate and unethical behavior, and treatment of victims. However, we actually want you to succeed. SCARS cannot do all of this alone. Won’t you at least learn from our experience?
We truly wish you well in your activities and hope you can help many victims. But never forget that you are an amateur in what you are doing and that there really are only a handful of professionals in this field.
If you have questions, please contact us by email at contact@AgainstScams.org
We also recommend that you get a copy of the SCARS GREEN BOOK – a guide to scam victim recovery. You can use this to inform your services and help you better help scam victims.
Part 2 will come soon!