(Last Updated On: March 24, 2022)

Intervention for Relatives of 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. Victims in Total 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.

For Families and Friends of Scam Victims

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. Guide

A SCARS Guide: Intervention For Relatives Of Scam Victims In Total Denial

Why Do Some People Refuse To Get It?


This guide is intended for family members of scam victims that are 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 refuse to accept that they are being scammed. This is NOT for scam victims themselves.

First, Let’s Explore The Basics Of A Romance Scam

A romance scam is a form of socially engineered fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. that relies on convincing someone that the person on the other side of the screen is in love with the victim. It uses manipulation and the victim’s own projection to cause them to fall in love with the 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.. Because the victim never really sees the scammer face to face, none of the defense mechanisms that humans have evolved are working. This is a mental projection of the victim’s own wants and desires. The bonding is so profound, that the victim’s sense of self will not allow them to recognize the truth that is obvious to everyone else.

The Situation

You have a family member who is in a romance scam online and they refuse to believe that it is or even could be a scam.

Unfortunately, because of the deep connection that has evolved in the mind of the victim, they may be incapable of accepting the truth.

In many cases, this will cause the loss of relationships with family and friends. The fantasy relationship fills such a fundamental need that nothing else matters in their life.

This is not going to be an easy process. In many ways, it is similar to substance abuse and addiction because in the opinions of many a romance scam is an addiction. That during the scam, the brain chemistry is actively releasing dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins – some of the most powerful drugs on earth, and made in our own bodies. To recognize this addiction aspect and much of it will fall into place with addict intervention and rehabilitation.

Another aspect of this is that it is similar to the denial stage of grief, following the loss of a family member. In other words, the refusal to believe is similar to a parent that refuses to accept the death of a child.

If you are unable to get the victim to accept the truth at the end of this, you are strongly recommended to contact a mental healthMental health Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". According to WHO, mental health includes "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential, among others". From the perspectives of positive psychology or of holism, mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and to create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how one defines "mental health". professional for treatment appropriate to the severity of the situation.

What Can Be Done?

The first step is to hold a family intervention where several family members sit down with the victim to discuss the scam. Do not be afraid to be open and honest about the effects it is having on the victim and the family. However, do not use guilt as a lever as this will probably be counter-productive.

There are many useful guides on how to hold an Intervention for Drug Addicts – which is essentially equivalent to Scam Addicts. Here is one such guide: https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/stage-intervention/

We recommend the following steps in your intervention cycle

Remember, this is both a behavioral and psychological event in the life of your family member, and we recommend the availability of a mental health professional be included if possible.

STEP 1: The Family Meeting

Gather together your family. Exclude any minors unless they are critical witnesses to the scam and the victim’s 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.. It would be recommended to have an authority figure, such as a parent or older sibling if possible. In the case of elderly victims, this may not be possible but most people have someone they listen to and respect in their family, and this person can be important in helping the victim accept the truth.

It is important to be non-threatening and address this in as dispassionately a manner as possible. Do not let the victim shut down and tune out because of 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. focused on them.

Be analytical and factual. Offer your proof, and back it up. Do not simply say it is a scam, show the victim it is.

Show them they are not alone in this, that millions of people have been scammed. Share the stories of other victims. Find them here: https://www.facebook.com/SCARS.Victims.Stories

After you have done all of these things, make it clear that the belief in the scam is causing them harm. Spell it out:

  • Missing  out on their own family
  • Lost money
  • Obsessive behavior driving people away
  • Their own health and wellbeing

Remember to be blunt but not angry. Tell the truth – hard truth, but limit opinions and any attempts to manipulate them which may cause them to withdraw. Remember that scammers warn victims that their families will not understand and may attempt to break them apart.

However, in the end, if you are still not having success, simply leave what you have said without threats of consequences and move to the next STEP.

STEP 2: Bring In An Authority

If you live in Western Countries, such as the U.S., Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, etc. you have highly professional police forces. Regardless of how large your city or town is, the local policeLocal Police The Local Police is your first responder in most countries. In most English-speaking countries and in Europe report to them first. In other countries look for your national cybercrime police units to report scams to. In the U.S., Canada, & Australia, you must report to the local police first. will know about online 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.. You can also involve local Social Services – especially if your friend or family member is elderly.

Contact your local police and ask for an officer to visit your family member for a welfare check – explain what the situation is first since in some places they have social workers that can visit with them also.

When the police (or social worker) visits the victim let them do all the talking and only speak up when asked a question or you need to correct a lie told by the victim. It is very important that this is not the family speaking to the victim at this stage, it must be the professional using their authority to explain to the victim what the truth is. This will also allow you to have an independent evaluation of the victim if needed later on in the process. In some cases, the police officer or social worker will provide you with a recommendation for treatment or other support. They may also be able to recommend local resources to help with the situation if the victim still refuses to believe.

STEP 3: Observation

After performing the family intervention and after the authority visit, observe the victim’s behavior.

You want to see if you reached the victim and if they now understand the message. Remember that this is a person they love and if they accept that it was a scam, it is the equivalent of someone dying. They are going to go through the normal stages of grief with all the pain that that brings. Look for those signs and make sure that the victim is supported throughout it.

On the other hand, victims in this state of total denial may lie to you about their acceptance and simply go underground with their communications with the scammer. Be ready for this so that you know what is truly happening.

Understand that all victims lie – to themselves, and to others. When they send money to a scammer they lie to the money transfer service that asks them if they know the person in real life. Be on guard for it here too.

Based on what you see you may need to proceed to the next STEP.

STEP 4: Breaking The Connection

At this stage, you will have come to a determination that the victim is not going to stop. You are going to have to make a very hard set of decisions. Almost all of them will dramatically affect your personal relationship with the victim. This is similar to the decisions that parents have to make with teens, or children make with mentally disabled parents.

Here you have options that you can employ but some of them require the legal authority to do them. We suggest trying to get a power of attorney (unless you already have one).

First: Cut the cord!

Disconnect the person from the internet completely. We don’t mean to turn off Netflix but cut them off from social media, email, Skype, and any means that the scammer can use to contact them. Scammers work with large numbers of victims so they will not waste a lot of time when a victim stops communicating. However, also understand that scammers share lists, so the victim will always be on one of these lists, and scam contacts will pop up in the future if there is a way.

If the person has a smartphone replace it with a flip phone with NO internet data connection.

Watch for attempts to use the internet at libraries and other places that may have computers.

Second: Cut Off The Money

Contact Western Union, Money Gram, and the victim’s bank to notify them the victim is being scammed. Hopefully, they will blockBlock Blocking is a technical action usually on social media or messaging platforms that restricts or bans another profile from seeing or communicating with your profile. To block someone on social media, you can usually go to their profile and select it from a list of options - often labeled or identified with three dots ••• further attempts to send money.

However, scammers can also use gift cards as a way of getting money, and these can be sent by mail. Be watchful for these as well.

Third: Legal Control Of Finances

If these fail or you prefer to just jump ahead to this point earlier there is a legal remedy by using your local Family Court.

We recommend that you contact a Family Law attorney to help you understand and navigate this process.

The basic idea is to become the guardian of the victim and as a result, have legal control over the finances of the victim. Even if the victim has been able to maintain contact with the scammer, if the victim has no access to money the scammer will go away on their own – they have other victims to work.

This process may also be necessary if the victim has the need for mental health services and is a danger to themselves.

SCARS Three Steps

We recommend that you also have them read our THREE STEP GUIDE for New Victims to help them with their first steps and a direction to start.


This is very similar to helping a drug addict or alcoholic recognize their addiction. It will be difficult, and maybe heartbreaking in the process for you and the other family members involved. When the victim finally accepts that it was all a scam it is going to have a profound impact on them and many victims take their own lives.

There is very little that we can do in such a guide to fully prepare you for what you will encounter in this process. You may lose the relationship that you have with the victim – though our experience has shown that these repair eventually after the truth is fully realized.

In most countries, there are substance abuse hotlines that you can turn to for more advice, and you should take advantage of any social services intervention or counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. services if available.

We wish you the very best of luck, and just remember that you are not alone – this affects thousands of victims every day.

We hope this guide helps in understanding your options and the process. Remember that a deep-seated denial may also be an indication of mental illnessMental Illness Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking, and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. and you should consult a mental health professional.

Please share your thoughts and experiences with this? Let us know if this guide helped and any additional suggestions that you may have?

NOTE: This is intended for educational purposes only

  • We are not offering a medical diagnosis or offering health care or legal advice in this article. Such individuals may, in fact, be suffering from mental illness and should be seen by a competent medical or psychological professional. For legal advice, you should contact a licensed attorney in your locality.
  • Additionally, in our experience, such victims are at higher risk of suicide, and appropriate crisis care should be provided if needed. That includes contacting your local or national mental health or suicide crisis hotlines.

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

U.S. FTCFTC The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government whose principal mission is the enforcement of civil (non-criminal) U.S. antitrust law and the promotion of consumer protection. The FTC can also act as a clearinghouse for criminal reports sent to other agencies for investigation and prosecution. To learn more visit www.FTC.gov or to report fraud visit ReportFraud.FTC.gov at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and SCARS at www.Anyscams.com