Psychology of Scams: When Panic Sets In

You just found out about your scam, what happens next can lead to panic!

After a Scam Stability Can Be a Rubberband!

After the scam, a typical victim is in shock, but denial quickly sets in. But if it is not brought under control then panic can be the result!

Everyone understands grief, but scam victims are frequently in shock after a scam ends and focusing on the wrong things. Denial, shame, keep them from addressing their real urgent needs. The longer they avoid acceptance, the more pronounced the eventual panic can be.

Of course, different people react differently. Some jump right through to anger, and others to depression, but many pretend they are in control until the rubber band snaps.

During the time following the scam there are numerous crisis points or moments that victims need to be aware of:

  • Early shock & paralysis – it is important to report to the police as quickly as possible to have any chance of getting the money back
  • Denial – victims do not want to face the truth
  • Anger – rage takes over control and prevents being helped or taking real actions to mitigate the damage – they hate the world
  • Panic – someone has to save them and get their money back, but they are unable or unwilling to do the thing necessary to really help themselves

Many victims will move forward through the grief cycle and are able to seek help and support. They will be able to get the hard things done and begin working on their recovery. But many victims will not, they collapse in on themselves in total panic.

Panic Is Destructive

During panic all a victim cares about is having someone save them just like a drowning swimmer. Far too often they cannot hear what care providers are trying to tell them, to guide them through this process. Instead, they stay fixed in the self-reinforcing state of panic that keeps them locked in place.

The worst part of panic is that when others, who are trying to help them, do not do what they think needs to be done they turn on them and express their panic-fueled rage against them or anyone else.

The result is caring people back away and has to leave the victim on their own. Most of the time, instead of recognizing their own behavior, the panicked victims escalate the panic and the verbal abuse that comes with it. This only serves to isolate the victim and drive them into depression or potentially mental illness.

Understand The Panic

The panic attacks or crises can be sudden and overpowering.

They can be triggered by almost anything that their trauma reacts to. Knowing what to do when they arise can reduce their severity or help stop them so the help can be provided.

Panic attacks are relatively common, even with non-victims, some statistics show that around 13% of people will experience one in their lifetime. Scam victims tend to experience them after their first month up to about 8 months after the scam is discovered.

The panic is related to the severity of the trauma the victim experiences and also the degree to which they have tried to deny it or keep it secret. Shame plays a large role in this.

Victims that do not find people they can fully talk to about it will keep it boiling up until it explodes. This is especially true if they do not confide in family or friends.

It becomes imperative to find an empathetic victims’ assistance provider who can hear and advise the victim of directions to take for recovery.

It also has a lot to do with the financial problems that a victim faces, especially if they borrowed money to give to the scammer. The pressure of the secrets and the looming debt can cause them to spiral in on themselves until full-blown panic is the result.

At the root of the Panic (most of the time) is Fear!

Victims feel fear for a variety of reasons:

  • Fear from threats by the scammers – ignore them they are just more lies / more manipulation.
  • Fear of discovery – afraid they will be condemned by family and friends when the truth is known.
  • Fear of reporting to the police – afraid they will not be helped or listened to – this becomes self-fulfilling.
  • Fear of the financial consequences – many victims lose huge amounts of money, and many times borrow money from others.
  • Fear for their family – many married victims fear that divorce might result after being lured into a romance scam while married, or insolvency might cost them their family.
  • Fear of reputation – that they will never be able to move past the stigma they are sure will result.
  • Fear of uncertainty – what they had come to know as a stable relationship was ripped apart in an instant, they are afraid of the unknown future that will come.

These fears can easily turn to panic, dread, and an overpowering sense of doom.

Overcome The Panic

The single most important thing any victim can do is recognize their instability and panic when it arises. Being able to control the panic is essential to being able to work the problem – work through the required tasks after a scam.

If you can see it – you can work with it, and get help to control it. But make sure that you do not take it out on others.

Panic attacks can create various Physical and Emotional Symptoms.

Recognizing the Physical Symptoms of Panic:

  • sweating
  • rapid breathing
  • a racing heartbeat

Emotional Symptoms may include:

  • feelings of fear and anxiety
  • intense, repetitive worrying
  • a feeling of impending doom

Immediate Steps to Overcome Panic

When you sense the anxious feeling coming on acknowledge it – recognize it for what it is. If you deny it or feed it, it will only get worse.


It may or may not be a full-blown panic attack, but in either case, there are some simple things a victim can do to reduce the panic and work towards calm.

1. Remember that it will pass

  • During a panic, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time.
  • It is important that you make no decisions during a panic – give yourself time to calm down before trying to solve things.
  • Try acknowledging that this is a brief period of concentrated anxiety and that it will be over soon.
  • Panic attacks tend to reach their most intense point within 10 minutes of their trigger, and then the symptoms will begin to subside.
  • Do not escalate the situation, regardless of what the trigger was – back away, remain silent – until the moment passes

2. Take Deep Breaths

  • Deep breathing can help bring panic & fear under control.
  • Panic can cause rapid breathing, and chest tightness can make the breaths shallow. This type of breathing can make feelings of anxiety and tension worse.
  • Deliberately slow your breathing into long deep breaths.
  • Try to breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating on each breath. Breathe deeply from the abdomen, filling the lungs slowly and steadily while counting to 4 on both the inhale and the exhale.
  • Sit up straight and close your eyes. Slowly inhale through your nose and envision the air you are breathing in as crystal clear and cool. As you slowly exhale, imagine the air going out as dark and hot.
  • Slowly repeat the process until all of the dark air has left your body and you are filled with only cool, crystal clear air.
  • Open your eyes and make a fresh start on the task at hand.

It is worth noting that for some people, deep breathing can make panic attacks worse. In these cases, the person can try focusing on doing something they enjoy instead.

People cannot always predict when a panic attack is going to arise, but making a plan of what to do for when it does occur can help a person feel more in control and make panic attacks easier to manage.

3. Listen to Your Thoughts:

  • Panic & fear can easily cause racing thoughts that seem to act like a ball in a pinball machine, just bouncing off of everything.
  • Pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself.
  • Self-talk like “I’ll never get all this done”, “Nobody appreciates how hard I work” or “This day will never end” only serves to increase stress and anxiety, and most importantly, they are rarely true and serve no useful purpose.
  • Change your self-talk to “I don’t know how I’ll get all this done, but I always do”, “My hard work pays off and my contributions matter” or “I’m looking forward to getting home and relaxing tonight”.
  • Respond to your thoughts out loud – by using your voice you can find new control that will not only slow your racing thoughts but help to calm you.
  • Often, many of our thoughts are invisible to us, but have a tremendous effect on our stress level, for good or bad. Make your thoughts work for you, not against you.

When You Absolutely Need To Talk To Someone!

Never be ashamed to talk to someone, many times having another voice will help control the ones in your head. But it can be more serious, and a good way to derail those thoughts is by talking to someone that understands these crises.

Do not be ashamed that you need help, be ashamed if you do not accept help. No one is a superhero, everyone needs help from time to time.

When You Need To Talk To Someone You Need To Do It Now!
Write This Number Down For The National Crisis Hotline:
1-800-273-8255 – U.S. & Canada

Click Here For More Countries

After The Panic

Once you have more control of yourself and are ready to let others help you, please join one of our support groups – we are here to help you – all we ask is that you control your panic and rage and do not turn against those trying to help.

We Are Here To Help

We will always do our best to help everyone, but fear, anger, and panic make it almost impossible for us to help. In these cases, we have no choice but to refer these victims to a mental healthcare provider.

So please be aware of your moods so we can help!

Psychology of Scams: When Panic Sets In 2

TAGS: SCARS, Information About Scams, Cybercrime, Crybercriminals, Romance Scams, Scam Victims, Online Fraud, Online Crime Is Real Crime, Scam Fear, Panic, Anger & Rage, Panic Attacks, Psychology of Scams, Victim Recovery,



SCARS the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated

By the SCARS™ Editorial Team
Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

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