Scam Victim’s Selfishness – A Common Behavior That Leads To Romance Scams? [Updated]

Scam Victim’s Selfishness

Not All Selfishness Is Bad For Scam Victims, As You Will Discover!

Psychology of Scams – A SCARS Insight

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.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at

Psychology of Scams: Scam Victim Selfishness

A Common Scam Victim Behavior That Leads To Romance Scams? Is One Of The Primary Motivations For A Scam Victim Falling For Scams Based Upon Selfishness?

This article will be hard to read for scam victims and at times it will make you angry. Please read the whole article and do not stop halfway or not just the headline or you will not understand.

An Unpleasant Component Of The Scam Victim’s Behavior

This article is going to look at a component of the scam victim’s behavior during and after the scam!

This is not intended to be an attack on scam victims or any victim or blaming them or to make you feel bad about yourself, but rather to get you thinking about what happened and your own behavior during the scam and afterward. By understanding your own behaviors and motivations you can help prevent future scams or similar incidents, and help yourself to better recover.

Remember that from the beginning you were expertly manipulated by the scammer and by your own brain » but this is an exploration of the behavior that led you to be scammed. By understanding it, you will be able to modify that behavior so that it hopefully never happens again.

It is ok if you disagree with the point of the article. We also recommend that you discuss this with your own trauma counselor or therapist.


Remember that all human behavior is based upon common motivations. Learn more about all the motivations here

Motivations refer to the internal or external factors that drive individuals to act or behave in a particular way. They are the underlying reasons or incentives that influence human behavior and decision-making. Motivations can be diverse and can range from basic survival needs, such as food and shelter, to more complex psychological, social, or emotional factors.

In the context of psychology, motivations are often categorized into intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivations arise from within an individual and are driven by personal interests, satisfaction, or a sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, extrinsic motivations come from external factors, such as rewards, recognition, pressure, or manipulation from others.

Understanding motivations is essential as they provide insights into why individuals act the way they do and help in designing effective strategies to encourage positive behaviors and outcomes.

Let’s Explore Selfishness

There is a saying that:

A Truly Selfless Person Can Never Be Conned. They Willingly Give Everything They Have Away Except For Themselves

A Selfish Person Loses Their Self Before They Lose Their Posetions

In a profound way, this is the way of romance scams too.

Review: What Is A Romance Scam

Bluntly, it is Socially Engineered Fantasy Romance that you had with someone that is/was exploiting you for their own gain.

But the BIG question is: were you not also exploiting it for your own gain?

Like The Devil On The Doorstep, The Scammer Needs Your Permission To Enter, And You Gave It. Then It Was Too Late!

While clearly you were being expertly manipulated to a great extent, in the very beginning you walked this path because YOU wanted something out of it. That is not wrong, it just is.

This is really the only real mistake you made, you said hello, and from there the manipulation began. Byt why did you say hello in the first place?

The Path Of Recovery

Part of the challenge with scam victims in their recovery is to be truthful with themselves about what really happened and where the responsibility lies – without judging or blame.


We want to help you fully understand what happened, and in the process try to understand the underlying motivations for the dangerous behavior that led you to it.

No doubt, you have asked yourself this question many times:

“Why would I talk to a total stranger and let them into my life? More importantly, let them into my brain!”

Because You Wanted Something – That Is Inherently An Act Of Selfishness – Even If You Were Not Aware You Were Doing It!

For most people, during what followed, while you were trapped in your scam, you would ignore the sage advice from family and friends. Keeping secrets or lying about the money that you sent.


A Scam Is An Addiction

In our opinion, scams are an addiction – both physiological and psychological.

The relationship scam manipulated your emotions, your behavior, even your dreams, and desires. In short, most scam victims would do anything for another fix during the scam – for another shot of the romance – even making themselves penniless!

Why Is It Important To Understand This?

Because like any addiction, the addiction changes the addict. We all recognize that addition is a kind of disease and needs to be treated, and recognizing these issues is a part of that treatment.

In the beginning, you had a choice, but once that choice was made most scam victims do not have the will or control to stop until they hit a wall – which in this case is the confirmation or discovery of the scam.

Sadly, in many (most?) cases it was caused by the victim running out of money! Though sometimes it was a lull or break that allowed the victim to recognize the red flags and break free.

The Scam Is Over, But …

Now what?

Now that the scam is over, you actually need to understand that you were addicted to the scam in a very real way, and how the selfish behavior that led you to be scammed has to change for you to be able to recover and to remain safe in the future. You still need to be selfish, but it is important to understand that this is a different kind of selfishness that is needed for recovery – the good kind.

There is a common misconception that when the scam stops (just like when an addict stops using), that you will become a perfect person again almost automatically. You want this to happen overnight – you are impatient, you are demanding about your recovery – when it doesn’t come that fast you zoom off on another tangent.

Do you recognize this in yourself – that this has happened to you?

People in this stage have an inner need for perfection and to regain control – the need to fix everything all at once, and to fix everyone else too.

After all, you were only doing something dangerous during the scam, right?

But NOT Now!

Now you learned your lesson and you will never let anything like that happen again, correct?


Although accepting the need for recovery is a huge accomplishment in itself, just stopping the scam isn’t enough. It is a long and painful process.

You will still suffer from the hopeless, powerless state of mind for quite a while. Depression, anxiety, despair, anger and hate, and extremes will plague you unless you do something about it.

Trauma just doesn’t go away all by itself. It requires work and help – from an organization like SCARS, from a trauma counselor, or a trauma therapist. But you will need help, if you deny that then you are still engaged in the high-risk behavior that led you to be scammed, maybe just of a different kind.

Getting Over A Scam Without Working On The Real Steps To Recovery Is Difficult If Not Impossible!

If you do not work on changing then you are just throwing away one fantasy security blanket for a newer, better one. But both will still be fantasies, and are just more obsessive-compulsive selfish behavior, if not fully addictive as well.

Recovery is where the real work starts. It requires affirmative action. It requires a commitment.

This action will consist of you facing and actively working on the character or behavior defects that led you to the scam in the first place.

Let’s Face It, You Will Never Be Perfect, But You Can Definitely Be Better!

Let’s Talk About You

You are just human, right? And you know that to be human means to be fallible, right?

Even if you learn and follow everything you are taught by us and our experts, or in our support groups, or by a counselor or therapist, there will still be times when you revert back to your selfish and self-seeking dangerous patterns. Because at the core, that fantasy-seeking scam addict is still in there and still self-centered.

Wow, That Was Harsh! Self-Centered???

Yes, we mean you are the center of your focus – that is what Self-Centered means.

This is neither good or bad – it just is at this stage, what you do about it determines if it is good or bad.

The only difference between the scam fantasy addiction and your recovery is that now, in your fully aware recovery self, your bad selfishness doesn’t rule you anymore, and you have the ability to recognize it and change.

You Can Learn To Control

You Can Learn To Control Your Kind Of Selfishness And Redirect It!

In an active addiction – in other words, the “scam” – you are consumed with self-focus – it is all about what this means for you – your fantasy lover, your online friend, and your future spouse.

You have no real regard for others and rarely feel remorse for your disregard for others during the scam. Except maybe for the scammer!

The Pattern

How many times did you hide what was really going on? How many times did you push away family and friends? How many times did you lie about what was going on?

We are not saying you are a bad person, or that you acted out of evil. Just that you were in the middle of a very narrowly focused activity (the romance) and it was all you could think about or maybe wanted to think about.

That is the very definition of selfishness!

Ask yourself this:

  • During the scam did you want nothing to do with anyone except your scammer fantasy boyfriend or girlfriend?
  • Were you oblivious to the feelings of others and how you affected them because all that mattered was you and your fantasy relationship?

Many scam victims will spend every waking hour chatting with their scammer. Making plans for their fantasy future. Completely unconcerned with how it affected your friends and family who saw through the scam or were worried about your behavior. Because in a real sense, NO ONE else mattered.

After the scam, your unhappiness reaches a crisis point.

  • You are panicked
  • You are afraid
  • You are angry

After the scam, it is about the money to be sure, but most victims are more afraid of how others will perceive them – isn’t that a kind of selfishness too? Shame is about how you feel, not about how others feel.

After the scam, your options are clear, die or recover. Ok, that is a bit dramatic, but that really is the choice that all addicts have to make. Except that after the scam is over, you are not really an addict anymore, but denial or anger can also destroy your life.

Except not everyone sees those options so clearly:

  • Many shift their focus back onto destructive selfishness again either in the form of anger, hate, and rage or denial
  • Some do, in fact, take their own lives at this stage
  • Some learn nothing and jump right back in with another scam

The problem is that for scam victims, the core of your distress is self-centeredness!

Being selfish creatures by nature, most victims are naive and think they can completely change overnight. Yet this causes a conflict internally when it does not happen. That is one of the reasons why we see “conflict points” at certain specific times during our recovery program timeline – such as at 6 months after the scam ends. You feel like you should be over it by then, but it can take much longer.

Most victims think they are recovering from their scam by driving themselves maniacally into the “I Hate Scammers” obsessive compulsion to fix the world – becoming a Savior for others – believing selfishly that this will somehow fix you too!  You abstained from one selfish obsession and replaced it with another.  But you didn’t really work at your own recovery and remain miserable and selfish – in anger or denial.

Remember, we are not attacking you, but are trying to help you break down the things that led you to this point and help you work through to the other side!

Good, Neutral, and Bad Selfishness?

Despite the negative connotation of “selfish,” selfishness is not always bad. That is what you need to understand because the selfishness you need now is the good kind.

Most victims never listen to suggestions, do not work with a recovery program, counseling or therapy, or do not join real crime victims’ support groups (there is only a handful of real support groups for scam victims and they are almost all under the SCARS umbrella.)

Why is that?

Because they are still trapped in the bad kind of selfishness – still angry and hating, or still in denial.

For example, we see some victims negatively reacting to other victims who show their vulnerability with hostility and criticism. Those who stopped their scam before they sent money have great trouble understanding how people could be so “dumb” as to send thousands to a scammer. This is a completely selfish statement. But this is also real-life behavior for many victims.  They have trouble with others who experienced it worse than them, and it makes them uncomfortable instead of compassionate. They make it about them – the bad kind of selfishness.

Few Victims Realize That Even After The Scam, They Can Still Be The Problem

The constant worry about how you looked or what others thought of you or what you thought of yourself, is getting you nowhere.

However, those that follow a recovery program (such as the SCARS recovery program) or join a real SCARS support group after the scam, they begin to see that their selfishness took them in the wrong direction. In a manner of speaking, they got on their knees and surrendered to it. They surrendered to anger and fear. They surrendered to the same kind of selfishness that led them to the scam, to begin with.

Victims do not want to be this way, but most are not thinking about themselves as being at the center of their issues. They think the scammer is the only problem. So they take it out on everyone around them and are miserable to be around.

Stop The Guilt

You are consumed with so much guilt and self-hate.

You either want to hide or run around and save everyone! There seems to be no middle ground. Just a swing one way or the opposite extreme.

To recover you have to stop the guilt-tripping over the money or how you fell for a fake romance and a scammer. You need to recognize certain basic truths:

  • The scam is over
  • You now need to be responsible and a good citizen again
  • You need to report the scammer to the police (and here or too) – to people that can use your information for good
  • You need to recognize how little you really know about global crime and not think you are an expert because you got scammed
  • You need to be truly selfish and focus not on the scammer but on yourself – the good kind of selfishness!
  • You need to set aside the shame and the guilt and be honest again – with yourself and others!
  • You need to make it right with your family and friends

Is Selfishness (Thinking Of Yourself First) Good Or Bad?

If you read enough self-help literature, you can’t help but notice a different view about thinking of yourself! At first glance, that seems to contradict the bad press about selfishness.

What You Need Is Self-Care! Self-Centered Care!

The label Self-Care refers to prioritizing your own physical health and psychological well-being by engaging in good eating habits, exercise, sleep, relaxation, and enjoyable activities every day. It also means setting your guilt and pride aside to listen to true experts in recovery.

Proponents of self-care and recovery point out that unless you take care of yourself first, you will not be well enough to help and take care of yourself, much less others.

As flight attendants tell passengers, “If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your own mask first and then assist the other person.” This is exactly what every person that enters a recovery program should think – you will have to recover yourself first and then you can think about others.

The real question about good selfishness is “Good for what (or whom)?” Or the deeper question is “Who benefits from my selfishness?

The simple (and wrong) answer to this question is that when you behave selfishly it is always good for you but bad for others.

True, there are many cases where people benefit (at least temporarily) at the expense of others. That happened during the scam. The most obvious example of that is being a MULE – helping yourself by helping your scammer at the expense of others.

Experts refer to the use of manipulation to take from others what they do not want to voluntarily give up as a “One-Sided Transaction.” This is a “Win-Lose” transaction where one person gains while another loses. A romance scam is a clear win-lose transaction where one person was emotionally manipulated by another.

However, victims also do this while they are 100% focused on their fake romance.  You pressured others to do something they did not want to do by making them feel guilty if they didn’t, or by yelling or withdrawing or being unpleasant in some other way. You were “bad selfish” and got what you wanted at their expense – for a while – until it all crashed and burned.

The reason that one-sided or win-lose transactions are not always good for you is that there are negative consequences for you that outweigh the temporary gains. Obviously, every scam victim understands that. But even simple emotional manipulation can have disastrous long-term consequences. If you exploit people they become less likely to cooperate or support others voluntarily.

Many times we have to reject people from our SCARS support groups because of this and refer them to professional counseling or therapy for help!

Neutral Selfishness

Then there is what is called “Neutral Selfishness.”

Neutral selfishness includes looking after your own well-being in ways that do not directly and substantially involve other people. If you take five minutes to brush your teeth to avoid the ill effects of tooth and gum disease, this is a form of neutral selfishness. In looking after your dental hygiene, you are neither taking away from someone’s well-being nor adding to it. The same would be true if you take 10 minutes every morning to meditate.

There are always people in need, so any behavior designed for your own benefit takes time away from what you could be doing to benefit others, but how much help can you be to others if you don’t look after your own physical and psychological health first? Right?

Good Selfishness

Ignoring the bad selfishness and neutral selfishness for a moment, there is also “Good Selfishness,” which benefits both ourselves and other people.

Good selfishness is a “two-sided transaction“, an exchange where two people willingly part with something in order to gain something they each value. Both people are winning something they want, so this is a “win-win transaction.”

The clearest example of a two-sided transaction is a simple exchange. If you trade a copy of a Beyonce song for a copy of a Beatles’ song each of you both feels like you are gaining in the swap.

Interactions in a support group are like this too! If you speak up and support others, and they then support you, it is a win-win. But If others are participating and supporting others while you sit in silence you are taking but not returning anything in kind. This is neither good for the overall group nor good for you.

Two-sided transactions involve far more than economic exchanges of goods and services. Any time you do something with or for someone else because you enjoy it more than doing it alone, you have a two-sided transaction. If you go to a movie with a friend, you “exchange” knowing glances, laughter, and conversation, all of which enhance the experience for both of you it is a two-sided transaction. The same can be said for attending concerts, watching sporting events, and sitting on the beach.

Some activities, such as putting on a theatrical production, playing basketball, engaging in sex, and taking a course in positive motivation with a friend, actually require the participation of more than one person. As long as all partners in these activities are willing participants who are getting something of value that is worth what they are investing in the activity, these are all examples of two-sided transactions. All are forms of good selfishness—interactions that are good for you and for both people.

That is exactly the model we follow in our SCARS recovery programs and support groups.

After the scam, you need to focus on yourself but also contribute (as best you are able) in an environment of other victims who are also sharing. The dropping of shame and guilt, and the sharing of your situation, your experience, or your story is selfish to be sure, but it is also sharing – thus the good kind of selfishness!

You also need to drop the shame and reconnect with your family and friends, and help them to understand what happened, as well as permitting them to help you is also selfishness, but the good kind too!

You Will Still Fall Short Sometimes

Remember you are not perfect, and you will have your good days and your bad.

Sometimes you will relapse into the bad kind of selfishness, but as long as you are aware of these differences and continue to steer your way through them, you will improve and recover.

Your recovery will be one of the hardest things you will ever do, but by being selfish for yourself and at the same time being open and honest with others, your behavior will change for the better. You will be able to recover and diminish the bad selfishness from your life, which ironically also helps you avoid scams in the future!

It helps with future scams in several important ways:

  • You will share information with others and in listening learn more than you can imagine
  • You will learn more from the SCARS experts who are truly willing to help you
  • You will stabilize yourself emotionally and be less vulnerable than you were the first time
  • You will be better able to see the red flags clearly without the blinding filter of selfishness that you experienced the first time

We provided this guide, not because we expect each of you to be Mother Teresa, but because these are truly important concepts that so many victims ignore and never learn.

You can recover. You can get your life and stability back. But you can make yourself a better person in the process!

We Hope You Do Recover!

This is a part of the reason why we are here – to help you!



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  1. M S Jimeson May 24, 2021 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Article: Scam Victim Selfishness – A Common Behavior That Leads To Romance Scams A Scam Is An Addiction.
    In our opinion, scams are an addiction – both physiological and psychological.

    Do you have any studies, papers or statistics to support your belief? Is that why you stated in your opinion. Or is this anecdotal only?

    • SCARS™ Editorial Team May 24, 2021 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      Yes, there have been many studies on scam victim behavior and psychology from scientists such as Cassandra Cross, and many others to support many of the positions taken, and that informs most of our work. In addition, it is derived from direct experience supporting over 7 million victims over the last 6 years. However, not every characterization will match every victim – by definition, some will be generalizations. However, none of these are intended to blame the victim, rather they are intended to help victims explore their own psychology and motivations that may have contributed to their vulnerability and susceptibility to being scammed.

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