What Is The Difference Between A Scam Victim And A Scam Survivor?

A SCARS Insight

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 by 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 to become survivors. Instead, they remain in the obsessive vigilante mindset until they either burn out and revert to denial or are traumatized sufficiently more that 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?