Romance Scam Victimization

Last Updated on by SCARS Editorial Team

Romance ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. VictimizationVictimization Victimization (or victimization) is the process of being victimized or becoming a victim. The field that studies the process, rates, incidence, effects, and prevalence of victimization is called victimology.

A SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Psychology of ScamsPsychology Of Scams Psychology Of Scams is the study of the psychological or emotional effects of scams or financial fraud on victims of these crimes. It helps victims to better understand the impact of scams on them personally or on others. To find the SCARS articles on the Psychology of Scams, use the search option to enter the term and find them. Insight

Find Real ScammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. & Fake Stolen Photos On ScamsONLINE.org
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Romance & Relationship ScamRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam? Victimization

Victimization (or Victimization) is the process of being victimized or becoming a victim.

Research that studies the process, rates, incidence, and prevalence of victimization is called VictimologyVictimology Victimology is the study of victimization, including the psychological effects on victims, relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system—that is, the police and courts, and corrections officials—and the connections between victims and other social groups and institutions, such as the media, businesses, and social movements..

vic·tim·i·za·tion

ˌviktəməˈzāSH(ə)n,ˌviktəˌmīˈzāSH(ə)n/

A Noun :: the action of singling someone out for cruel or unjust treatment. “we should be able to speak up without fear of victimization”

There Are A Few Different Types Of Victimization:

Peer Victimization

Peer Victimization: is the common experience among children of being a target of the aggressive behaviorBehavior   Behavior / Behavioral Actions Otherwise known as habits, behavior or behavioral actions are strategies to help prevent online exploitation that target behavior, such as social engineering of victims. Changing your behavior is the ONLY effective means to reduce or prevent scams. (bullying) of other children. But it also applies to Victims of ScamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. where “Alpha” Scam Victims (frequently in the role of providing support to other victims) turn their aggression (specifically their residual angerAnger Anger, also known as wrath or rage, is an intense emotional state involving a strong uncomfortable and non-cooperative response to a perceived provocation, trigger, hurt or threat. About one-third of scam victims become trapped in anger for extended periods of time following a scam. A person experiencing anger will often experience physical effects, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Some view anger as an emotion that triggers a part of the fight or flight response. Anger becomes the predominant feeling behaviorally, cognitively, and physiologically. Anger can have many physical and mental consequences. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them", psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability. towards the scammer) against other victims because they do not follow or behave the way the “Alpha Victim” believes or demands that they do.

Passive Victimization

Passive Victimization: can occur passively where the Victim is still in denialDenial Denial is a refusal or unwillingness to accept something or to accept reality. Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something, refusal to acknowledge something unpleasant; And as a term of Psychology: denial is a defense mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality. and is rejected by peer groups, support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers., and family or friends. The victim clearly is a victim of a scammer, yet their refusal to accept or acknowledge that simple fact makes them an outcast.

Secondary Victimization

Secondary Victimization (also known as post-crime victimization or double victimization) relates to further victimization following on from the original victimization.

For example “victim-blamingBlaming Blame or Blaming is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong, their action is blameworthy. By contrast, when someone is morally responsible for doing something right, we may say that his or her action is praiseworthy. Blame imparts responsibility for an action or act, as in that they made a choice to perform that act or action.,” such as inappropriate post-crime behavior or language by family or friends with which the victim has contact may further add to the victim’s suffering.

Victims may also experience secondary victimization by law enforcement or the justice system personnel upon reporting the scam. Victims will lose time, suffer reductions in income, often be ignored by police and other staff, and will remain uninformed about updates, to the extent that their frustration and confusion will turn to apathy and a declining willingness to further participate in the system.

A Romance Scam is especially stigmatizing because of its voluntary nature. The victim willingly participated in their own victimization is the reality, even though they were fully manipulated into this role.  Victims frequently suffer isolation, be pushed away by friends and family, and held in contempt by law enforcement.

The re-traumatization of the scammer’s assault, abuse, of the scam victim through the responses of individuals and institutions is an example of Secondary Victimization. Secondary victimization is especially common in cases of Romance Scams but is not seen in most other forms of CybercrimesCybercrimes Cybercrime is a crime related to technology, computers, and the Internet. Typical cybercrime are performed by a computer against a computer, or by a hacker using software to attack computers or networks..

Revictimization

The term revictimization refers to a pattern wherein the victim of a crime has a statistically higher tendency to be victimized again.

This latter pattern is particularly notable in cases of Romance Scam, where the scam was an emotionally-based crime, and where the emotional connection with the criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. remains long after the crime.

While an exact percentage is almost impossible to obtain, our own research estimates that the average number of times that a Romance Scam Victim is scammed is 3.4 times (as of 2021). The vulnerability to victimization experienced as an older adult (Senior Citizen) is increased as well.

Reasons as to why revictimization occurs vary by event type, and some mechanisms are not well known. Revictimisation in the short term is often the result of risk factors that were already present, which were not changed or mitigated after the first victimization; sometimes the victim cannot control these factors. For example, a victim loses money to the first scammer using a fake identity – such as stolen photos, then will hire a fake investigator to locate the “real” person to “help” that person.

The most common form or revictimization results from follow-on scamsFollow-on scams A follow-on scam is an attempt by scammers or fraudsters to approach a previous scam victim again. They typically take the form of money recovery services, private investigators - offering services to desperate scam victims. They can also be government impersonation scams leveraging a victim's need for law enforcement support. Additionally, blackmail scams such as sextortion can be a follow-on scam since they typically take place after the main scam attempt. us as the “Recovery ScamRecovery Scam If you've already fallen for a scam, another scammer may call you and offer to get you your money back for a fee. Their goal is to double-dip and steal more of your money. Unfortunately, in most cases, only real law enforcement or your government can get your money back. There are exceptions, but you are safer to avoid all recovery options.” where a victim pays a service to recover their money – typically the original money was sent overseas (West Africa for example), and the service (for a fee) will investigate the matter, identify the scammer, and get some or all of their money back – of course this is also a scam. We estimate that as many as 5% of victims are revictimized by Recovery ScamsRecovery Scams If you've already fallen for a scam, another scammer may call you and offer to get you your money back for a fee. Their goal is to double-dip and steal more of your money. Unfortunately, in most cases, only real law enforcement or your government can get your money back. There are exceptions, but you are safer to avoid all recovery options. amounting to as many as 50,000 per year.

Revictimization of Romance Scams Victims who were previously victimized is complex.  We believe that the emotional and physical triggersTRIGGERS A trigger is a stimulus that sets off a memory of a trauma or a specific portion of a traumatic experience. that occured in the first scam created an actual physical addiction during the first scam. Like other forms of addiction, recidivism is quite high. Meaning that once the victim experiences the “highs” of the scam relationship, specifically designed to triggerTRIGGERS A trigger is a stimulus that sets off a memory of a trauma or a specific portion of a traumatic experience. these responses, that even with behavioral changes and learned protective procedures, the victim retains a tendency to “fall” for another scammer. Knowledge and acceptance of this can be most useful in reducing the future risk of revictimization. Additionally, continued participation in peer supportPeer support Peer support occurs when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other. It commonly refers to an initiative consisting of trained supporters and can take a number of forms such as peer mentoring, reflective listening (reflecting content and/or feelings), or in a support group. Peer support is also used to refer to initiatives where colleagues, members of self-help organizations and others meet, in person or online, to give each other connection and support on a reciprocal basis. Peer support is distinct from other forms of social support in that the source of support is a peer, a person who is similar in fundamental ways to the recipient of the support; their relationship is one of equality. A peer is in a position to offer support by virtue of relevant experience: he or she has "been there, done that" and can relate to others who are now in a similar situation. Trained peer support workers such as SCARS Volunteers receive special training and may be required to obtain Continuing Education Units, similar to clinical staff. Some other trained peer support workers may also be law-enforcement personnel and firefighters as well as emergency medical responders. structures (support groups) provides the structure and community that is useful in also reducing this risk.

Another theory of why revictimization occurs draws on the principle of “Learned Helplessness.”  One theory goes that this state of being unable to fight back or flee the danger leaves the last primitive option: freezeFreeze Trauma Freeze Response: While fight-or-flight is the better-known way humans respond to certain stressful stimuli, the additional less known third response "FREEZE", was not as widely studied until this last decade. Freezing as a response to a threat might seem effective, a sort of “playing dead” in the face of danger; however, in humans freezing manifests as an inability to communicate, react, make decisions, or take any action of self-preservation or defense., an offshoot of death-feigning. This follows that after the scam, the victim is unable to fight back, recover their money, or obtain justice, just gives up. By not engaging in the emotional or physiological recovery process, they will not learn any new behaviors or defenses and will return to the original behavior that made them an easy victim to begin with. It appears that a significant number of scam victims do exactly this – possibly as high as 30% fall into this mode – becoming revictimized over and over until financially they are unable to engage in the online behavior that places them at risk – they simply run out of money, lose their home, or worse.

Scammer Choose Pretraumatized Victims

In adulthood, the freeze response can remain, and some professionals have noted that victimizers sometimes seem to pick up subtle clues of this when choosing a victim. This behavior can make the victim an easier target, as they sometimes make less effort to fight back or use the judgment needed to avoid the scam. Afterward, they often make excuses and minimize what happened to them, sometimes never reporting the crime to the authorities. Our research shows that at least 95% of victims will not report the crime to law enforcement.

Victim Self-Image

Victims of scams and manipulation often get trapped into a self-image of victimization. The psychological profile of victimization includes a pervasive sense of helplessness, passivity, loss of control, pessimism, negative thinking, strong feelings of guilt, shameShame Shame is an unpleasant self-conscious emotion typically associated with a negative evaluation of the self; withdrawal motivations; and feelings of distress, exposure, mistrust, powerlessness, and worthlessness., self-blameSelf-Blame Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially at fault for the harm that befell them. SCARS seeks to mitigate the prejudice against victims and the perception that victims are in any way responsible for the actions of offenders or scammers. There is historical and current prejudice against the victims of domestic violence and sex crimes, such as the greater tendency to blame victims of rape than victims of robbery. Scam victims are often blamed by family & friends for the crime. Scam victims also engage in self-blame even though they are not to blame. and depression. This way of thinking can lead to hopelessness and despair without an active counter to this. This website and the other educational materials we publish on social media (such as on Facebook) serve as a mechanism for victims to understand their victimology, and through that understanding destigmatize themselves.

Additionally, we provide two other mechanisms:

  1. Our RSN Self-Help Recovery ProcessRSN Steps” Program; and
  2. Online scam victims’ support groups on Facebook where victims can explore their situations and heal in a community of other victims without the judgmental pressures of non-victim family and friends. The link to our Facebook Support GroupSupport Group In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers. Information page is Scam Victims’ Support Group

If you are on Facebook and interested in joining one of our support groups please contact us by email at contact@AgainstScams.org. Our support groups are compliant with U.S. & International regulations for Victim’s Assistance and SCARS Victim Support Group standards.

References:

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Society of Citizens Against Relationship ScamsSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Inc.

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A Worldwide Crime Victims Assistance & Crime Prevention Nonprofit Organization Headquartered In Miami Florida USA & Monterrey NL Mexico, with Partners In More Than 60 Countries
To Learn More, Volunteer, or Donate Visit: www.AgainstScams.org
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