Recovery Psychology: There Is No “He” Or “She” In Romance Scams – 2021 [UPDATED 2023]

Recovery Psychology: There Is No He Or She In Romance Scams

Correcting Confusion And Helping Victims To Understand Recovery Psychology

Recovery Psychology – A SCARS Insight

Understanding Recovery Psychology – There Is Not ‘Him’ or ‘Her’

Almost all Romance Scam Victims start out confused about who scammed them and about their recovery!

Often scam victims associate the scam with the face in the photos, even if intellectually they understand that it was scammers behind the photo!

Recovery psychology helps us help you to fully understand your experience as a scam victim. As of 2023, SCARS has had over 12,000 scam victims pass through its doors in their online support groups. This, plus our other publications and communications has allowed us to have a very large sample size in understanding what scam victims experience, believe, and how to help them recover.

One of the Most Common Things that Scam Victims do is to refer to their scammer as He or She!

Yet, the reality – in 98% or more of the cases with romance scams – there is no HE or SHE. There is ONLY THEY!

Most victims (especially those who do not get professional support or who are still early in their recovery path) speak about and think about their scam in terms of the person in the photo, even if they know it was stolen and fake. Correcting this perception is an essential part of each victim’s recovery psychology.

Many victims come out of the scam with a variety of beliefs, and thanks to amateur groups they often have a head full of urban legends or misinformation.

Sometimes the victim remains locked into the belief that the face in the photo was the real scammer. Or if not the real scammer, that the photo was stolen, and the real person should have known about their photos being used and done something about it. Mostly, they just do not (yet) understand how the business of relationship scams, and specifically romance scams really work.

Understanding these truths is essential for each victim’s recovery psychology.

Relationship Scams are a Business

Scammers, regardless of what new victims think, are in this as a business. A very profitable business.

Scamming today follows closely the business and organizational models of telemarketing – including the development of teams, and individual specialization.

A typical relationship scam is built on a trust relationship with deception and manipulation functions with a set of stages.

A Relationship Scam has a basic set of stages to prepare a victim and to move them forward:

  • An Initial Lure or Contact
  • An Introduction Phase
  • A Grooming Phase
  • A Capture & Control Phase – the Application of Manipulation
  • A Closer Phase (Get the Money)
  • A Wind-down Phase
  • And Post-Scam Scam Phases:
    • Threats & Coercion
    • Follow-Up Money Recovery Scams
    • Follow-Up Scam Investigator Scams
    • Follow-Up Police Reporting Scams

Each of these is being performed by human criminals, either part of one group or by separate groups, all focused on extracting as much as possible from each victim! Each group of criminals engages in their own various models and businesses to steal as much as possible.

However, scammers specialize based on their skills and success – remember this is a business. There is a management hierarchy that make these decisions too.

In most cases, a victim will be handed off to different criminals over the course of the scam – and they may be males and females, regardless of the gender of the victims.

For this reason, there is no HE or SHE. There is only a THEY. Can you accept that?

Taxonomy (Terminology) Affects Your Recovery Psychology

One of the many challenges for romance scam victims is letting go of the face in the stolen photos, and associated with this is the use of pronouns such as HE or SHE. This is important to each victim’s recovery psychology to help them de-personalize their connection with the criminals – converting them in their own mind from a very personal one-on-one violation to one that was all business and not personal, conducted by multiple criminals over the course of the crime.

In our SCARS recovery programs, we teach victims to let go of these pronouns and to use only THEY. Why? Because it helps to disassociate the person that they thought they had a relationship with and to turn it into a faceless THEY! Once a victim can control the pronouns, it becomes much easier to accept the rest of the reality of these types of scams:

  • There was NO relationship in reality
  • There was no HE or SHE behind the photo
  • There was a team of scammers controlling and manipulating the victim
  • There may have been many scammers that impersonated just one person
  • The victim was actually talking with multiple scammers throughout the scam – they work as a team

Each victim who can accept these facts and integrate it into their recovery psychology has an easier time recovering from their scam. It makes it easier to disconnect from the romance and the relationship. It makes it easier to see it as a crime. It also makes it easier to overcome shame and self-blame.

Learn more about Relationship Scams Taxonomies here

This may seem like a small thing – what you refer to a scammer as, but in the victim’s mind, this is critically important.

Why is this Important?

It’s incredibly important for scam victims to let go of the fake identity they’ve emotionally attached to for several crucial reasons:

Emotional Well-being:

  • Grieving: Holding onto the illusion of the scammer perpetuates the grieving process and hinders emotional healing. Accepting the reality of the situation allows for true grieving and closure.
  • Self-blame: Blaming oneself for falling for the fake identity is common. Recognizing the manipulative tactics employed by a team of scammers removes the burden of personal responsibility and promotes self-compassion.

Psychological Well-being:

  • Deeper Trauma: Clinging to the fabricated persona can exacerbate and prolong the trauma. Accepting the truth empowers victims to break free from psychological manipulation and rebuild their sense of trust and autonomy.
  • Reduced Vulnerability: Scammers often target individuals seeking connection and emotional validation. Recognizing the manipulative patterns and techniques used by the “fake person” can equip victims with valuable knowledge to prevent future manipulation.

Practical Reasons:

  • Financial Recovery: Holding onto hope for recouping lost funds through engagement with the scammer can delay or hinder effective legal or financial recovery strategies. Recognizing the scam allows victims to focus on practical steps towards reclaiming their finances.
  • Safety and Security: Continuing to engage with the scammers, even indirectly, carries the risk of further financial loss, emotional manipulation, and potential threats to personal safety. Distancing oneself from the deceptive operation is crucial for ensuring security.

Letting go of the fake identity is not about forgetting or minimizing the experience. It’s about gaining valuable self-knowledge, fostering resilience, and empowering oneself to move forward.

So Remember:

There is NO “HE” or “SHE”
Just THEY!

SCARS Resources:

Other Cyber Resources

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Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

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The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

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  1. Corey Gale July 17, 2024 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    They sure were convincing with the many photos that I received. I’m still having trouble accepting the photos were not who I was talking with. Their Facebook page is still up with some of the same photos.

  2. Beth April 13, 2023 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    This was a hard separation to make. After 16 months of intense all encompassing constant contact multiple times every day and night, it was extremely hard to make the break. After 7 months of support I’m finally there. What happens is I would say nearly impossible for someone who has not experienced this to really understand. It’s difficult to put into words. Thank you for the informative articles and support.

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