Are You A Victim Or A Scam Survivor?
An Exploration Of Mindsets
As an organization, we have had the opportunity to observe the victims of scams for many years. We have had the benefit of expanding our knowledge by professionalizing our activities as registered crime victims’ assistance and support providers, in applying victimology and criminalistics, as anthropologists, as specialists in addictive behavior, in the psychology of scams, victim recovery, and related fields that we have brought into our organization to help us better serve the troubled souls that have been victimized by scammers.
Often online crime victims recoil from the term “victim” and want to view themselves as “survivors”. But these are not interchangeable terms.
“Victims” Or “Survivors”
Different Individuals And Groups Tend To Use The Words “Victims” Or “Survivors”
“Victims” is often used in legal settings, while “survivors” is often used in advocacy groups. Sometimes “victim” is used to describe a person who has recently experienced violence or is currently experiencing abuse of some kind. “Survivor” tends to be used to describe a person who has begun to heal from the experience.
Some will even confuse the concept and call themselves a Scam Victim Survivor, but this is not accurate.
We Have A Different Perspective On This!
A Scam Victim (in our view) is someone who has been subjected to a scam or online fraud. They have been traumatized by believing the perpetrator(s) (or scammers). Some lose money also, but not all.
A Scam Victim is like an Addict. When someone is an Addict they are always an addict for life because they remain susceptible to relapse. An addict can always relapse because of the complex psychological dependency that has become wired into their personality and body. A Victim similarly is a Victim for life, but unlike an addict, a Victim can learn not to be a victim anymore.
A Scam Victim is someone who has not learned the fundamental lessons that allow them to be a Survivor. A Survivor has learned those lessons.
What Lessons? What Do We Mean?
Everyone who becomes the victim of a scam, especially a romance (relationship) scam or other types of African-style Internet confidence tricks fundamentally lived in denial. They all universally believed that it would never happen to them. Yet it did, that is the definition of denial. If you were asked before you became a victim you probably would have remarked about how stupid these people were? How silly and lonely and pathetic these scam victims were? Because you would never let anything like that happen to you, right?
But you did let it happen to you. Most of you ran full speed into that abyss and many with family and friends trying to hold you back. Did you listen to anyone? Not until it was too late. You believed you were safe. You were in denial.
Now you can also see how derogatory those terms were that you used to describe scam victims in the past!
You Were Scammed!
It happened and it was painful. It was agony!
For some, it was the worst thing to happen in their lives and it keeps on because of the trauma and financial damage that you have to live through after the scam. The pain goes on and on, but eventually, the psychic damage begins to subside. It never goes away completely but you learn to live with it and eventually you can get through a whole day without thinking about it.
You Swear To Yourself That It Will Never Happen Again. You Will Never Be Scammed Again, Ever!
Sadly, this is just you living in denial again. This is just you remaining a victim. You are not really a survivor, not yet.
The truth is that anyone can be scammed and amazingly the statistics show that most victims will be scammed multiple times – over and over. They continue to claim they will never be scammed and proudly proclaim themselves as being cured or incapable of being scammed again, yet they are.
How is that possible?
It is possible for the simple reason that they have not learned the fundamental lessons that every addict learns – that it can and will happen again unless you change your mentality and behavior. Sadly, most addicts do not change or stay the course of their sobriety – they relapse again and again. According to Alcoholics Anonymous only about 12% of alcoholics fully recover, the rest relapse over and over. Many die from the experience.
The same is true of scam victims – only about 30% recover. If you want to learn more about our research in victim mindsets click here
About A Third Of Scam Victims Come Out Of The Scam Traumatized And In Denial
Almost all scam victims are traumatized by the experience, but about a third cannot really accept what happened to them. They avoid the help and wisdom of those that can really help them. They may be pulled into scam hate groups – groups of victims that live their hate for scammers. These just reinforce the trauma and cause these traumatized victims to further withdraw from potential help or roil in their perpetual rage. They do not get the help they need and are not able to see a path to recovery. The result is a continuation of their vulnerability online with unsafe habits and either pretend that it didn’t happen (at least as far as their friends and family know) or just blindly assume that they will never put themselves in a place where they can be scammed again. Except they are scammed again in most cases.
We see examples of this every day with recent victims that go right back out looking on dating sites or talking with strangers on social media. They think the scam was just something that happened to them and when it is over – it is over, nothing more to learn or do.
About A Third React With So Much Anger To Their Scam That They Deny Themselves The Ability To Properly Heal
Another third of victims react very negatively to their experience. They react with not only anger but a seething rage towards the scammers. They demand vengeance and justice yet don’t really know who did this to them, so they begin a quest. A quest to discover who their scammer is and to bring them to justice.
This compulsion can take many forms:
- Becoming a savior – believing that they and only they can save everyone
- Becoming a scambaiter – believing that they have to get even with scammers
- Becoming a vigilante – believing they will get revenge
- Becoming a scam hater – creating groups that lure in victims with the promise of exposing and shaming scammers
- Hating anyone that has a better way
Actually, most victims start down this path somewhat, everyone wants to know who scammed them but the “realist” victims soon discover that they may never know.
The ones that turn into “haters” become obsessed with their anger and fixation on any form of justice that lets them get even with the scammers so that it soon becomes an obsession. Like those that continue in denial, the haters never allow themselves the full realization of the extent of their original denial or the trauma they experience. They reject or at least never learn the changes that are needed to both heal and become survivors. Instead, they remain in the obsessive vigilante mindset until they either burn out and revert to denial or are traumatized sufficiently more than other psychological or mental health conditions set in.
What Is It That These Two Groups Are Missing?
They Are Missing A Simple Truth That They Can And Will Be Scammed Again Unless They Change
Of course, both groups readily express that they understand that and they have changed.
They claim that they have learned their lesson and will never let it happen again. We hear that from virtually every victim right before a significant percentage tell us about the second and third scams they experienced. Then they say again nevermore! Never Again!
They express it as an act of will. That the singular act of expressing (denying) that it will happen again magically prevents it. But that is, of course, just another form of denial (more Magical Thinking) that is obvious to anyone who has seen any number of victims objectively. Everyone, universally, says it will never happen again to them. Yet it does to so many.
As you read this now, the odds a virtually 100% that you have expressed this to yourself and anyone that would listen to you, right? If you doubt your ability to be scammed again we suggest reading our Guide on the subject.
Making It Real!
How Do You Go From Simply Stating It Will Never Happen Again To Really Making It A Reality?
The first thing is to admit to yourself a difficult truth: you were scammed because you were not prepared to be safe and you are still not prepared!
How can we say that?
You learned so much about scams since it happened to you. You are an expert now, right? It can never happen again to you?
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.
You are not an expert, you are a victim. You have learned some things but compared to what there is to know you have barely scratched the surface. Yet this expression that somehow because of your experience you are now an expert is something that we see a thousand times a day. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Yes, we admit that many learn about scams and scammers – their techniques and methods. How they were scammed using a stolen face or a kind word. Some learn about triggers such as Stranger Trust, the Amygdala Hijack, Future Faking, Gaslighting, and other techniques, yet knowledge is not a complete defense.
You were overcome intellectually the last time. Smart people tend to be more easily scammed than dumb people, mostly because you believe in your own security.
Do not feel bad – it has taken us years to fully understand these issues too and we are experts. The number of true romance scam experts is probably below 100 worldwide. Almost everyone else is either an amateur leading people down the wrong path or selling snake-oil. There are, however, a remarkable few that are genuine in their understanding of the issues and able to be supportive.
But Getting Back To The Core Theme, How Do You Become A Survivor?
It Is As Simple As Admitting To Yourself That You Can Be Scammed, It Happened Once, And It Can Happen Again Unless You Change
Almost all IT Security (Cybersecurity) is based upon certain fundamentals – and that is exactly what we are talking about here: cybersecurity – your personal security online. To be and remain reasonably safe you must accept the following truths:
- You were scammed and it CAN happen again
- If it happens again it will be because you did not prepare yourself to prevent it
- If it doesn’t happen it was because you changed your mentality and habits to prevent it
- It is not prevented by learning or doing something but by constantly learning and doing the right things forever
- Online security is not a state or place you arrive at – it is a process that goes on – you learn and adapt constantly
- Safety is about accepting that you do not know but must learn and must apply what you learn every day
- Security is knowing that the cybercriminal is as smart or smarter than you are
If you can learn these 7 fundamental truths and truly accept them, then and only then can you learn to be safe online or in any walk of life for that matter.
These are the same lessons we have to learn to drive a car or work in any capacity from cooking to brain surgery. Acknowledging our limitations is the first step in overcoming them, but we all also have to accept that there are always limitations and things to be learned for our very survival. This is all a Darwinian process of evolution where the scammers evolve and adapt constantly and their prey (you and your family) must also.
Many will tell you platitudes, such as: “If it looks too good to be true it must not be true.” But this is more denial. There are no absolute tests for being scammed – behavior plays the greatest role.
What Makes A Survivor?
Transforming from a Victim to a Survivor is actually quite hard but you can do it. It is honestly accepting these truths and acting on them.
If you live in the belief that you will never be scammed again you are still a victim – as much of yourself as the scammer. But if you can accept that it happened and it will happen again unless you make the commitment to change and then live those changes – then become a Survivor.
This is far from easy. Becoming a survivor is a process that takes months at a minimum and is full of false starts and pitfalls. Every one of you was scammed once and you can be scammed again and again. This happens every day in fact: by listening to the charismatic hate group leaders, or the puppets in big social media’s pockets, or spreading the urban legends that so many victims profoundly believe – you are still being scammed. Just blindly accepting what is said on the evening news is scamming you again. It is a constant rain of fakery all around us all the time.
How do you know who can be trusted? Maybe you can’t trust anyone completely, but you just need to learn who’s knowledge or wisdom you can trust. You should never trust anyone online until you know if they are trustworthy and you need to accept that you may never know. That includes every so-called anti-scam group.
Accept and live the 7 fundamental truths above about online safety and you will be a survivor. Your journey away from being a victim will literally change your life. You will never be the same but you can be better in many ways – may be less trusting but smarter, more aware, and more able to change your behaviors as the predators adapt. You can also be the strength that helps others transform from victims (or potential victims) to survivors if you choose to be. Always remember that you never arrive you just continue the journey.
Only a victim believes they are safe, a survivor knows they are not!