Suggestibility & Scam Victims

Suggestibility & Scam Victims

(Last Updated On: August 9, 2022)

Suggestibility & 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

The 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.

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. Insight

It Is Important For Scam Victims To Better Understand Their Own Suggestibility Since It Influenced Not Only The Scam But Their Life After The Scam

Let’s Begin With What Suggestibility Is?

Suggestibility is the quality of being inclined to accept and act on the suggestions of others.

One may fill in gaps in certain memories with false information given by another when recalling a scenario or moment. Suggestibility uses cues to distort recollection: when the subject has been persistently told something about a past event, his or her memory of the event conforms to the repeated message. That sounds very much like GaslightingGaslighting Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group creates the seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and disinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's beliefs. Once in this state the criminal can then more easily control the victim for their own purposes. Instances can range from the denial by a scammer that a scam has occurred, to belittling the victim's emotions and feelings, to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. The goal of gaslighting is to gradually undermine the victim's confidence in their own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from delusion, thereby rendering the individual or group pathologically dependent on the gaslighter for their thinking and feelings. because Gaslighting relies heavily on a victim’s suggestibility in order to perform that form of manipulation.

It also can influence a person’s expectations so they believe that an outcome will happen regardless of the actual facts.

A person experiencing intense emotions (such as when they are deliberately Amygdala hijacked) tends to be more receptive to ideas and therefore more suggestible. Generally, suggestibility decreases as age increases. However, psychologists have found that individual levels of self-esteem and assertiveness (in other words – vulnerable) can make some people more suggestible than others; this finding led to the concept of a spectrum of suggestibility. But suggestibility is also influenced by other factors, such as cognitive biases.

Definition of Suggestibility

Attempts to isolate a global trait of “suggestibility” have not been particularly successful, due to testing procedures to distinguish differences between the following distinct types of “suggestibility”:

  • Being Suggestible To Verbal Persuasion – to be affected by communication or their own expectations such that responses are overtly enacted, or subjectively experienced without volition
  • Being Suggestible To One’s Own Fantasies – deliberately using one’s imagination to bring about effects (even if involuntary) in response to communication or expectation.
  • Being Overly Accepting – to accept what people say uncritically, and to believe or privately accept what is said
  • Being Conforming – to conform to expectations or the views of others, without the appropriate private acceptance or experience; that is, to exhibit behavioral compliance without private acceptance or belief.

Suggestibility Examples

Suggestibility can be seen in people’s everyday lives:

  • Someone witnesses an argument after school. When later asked about the “huge fight” that occurred, he/she recalls the memory, but unknowingly distorts it with exaggerated fabrications, because he/she now thinks of the event as a “huge fight” instead of a simple argument
  • Children are told by their parents they are good singers, so from then on they believe they are talented while their parents were in fact being falsely encouraging
  • A teacher could trick his students by saying, “Suggestibility is the distortion of memory through suggestion or misinformation, right?” It is likely that the majority of the class would agree with him because he is a teacher and what he said sounds correct. However, the term is really the misinformation effectMisinformation effect This cognitive bias is the tendency for post-event information to interfere with the memory of the original event. It is easy to have your memory influenced by what you hear about the event from others. Knowledge of this effect has led to a mistrust of eyewitness information..

However, suggestibility can also be seen in extremes, resulting in negative consequences (such as in romance/relationship scamsRelationship 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?):

  • A witness’ testimony is altered because the police or attorneys make suggestions during the interview, which causes their already uncertain observations to become distorted memories.
  • A young girl began suffering migraines which led to sleep deprivation and depression. Her therapist, who was a specialist in cases involving child abuse, repeatedly asked her whether her father had sexually abused her. This suggestion caused the young girl to fabricate memories of her father molesting her, which led to her being placed in foster care and her father being tried on charges of abuse.
  • A victim of sexual assault is asked to look at a ‘line-up” of suspects. The victim believes or has faith in the police and tends to believe that the person that assaulted her must be in the group of suspects, and chooses the most similar suspect believing he had to be there, thus making a false identification.

With 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.

In the case of scam victims, it both influences their susceptibility to being scammed and the levels of manipulation during the scam. But also what they believe after the scam.

  • Scam victims often are suggestible to the fairy tales sold by the online dating industry and develop belief in their entitlement to a happily ever after
  • They are suggestible to the internet mythology that it is a connected world and that people can make friends anywhere  in the world
  • They are suggestible to the attention that online criminals pour onto victims during the groomingGrooming Grooming is a form of setting up a victim for a scam or other crime by befriending and establishing an emotional connection with the victim, and sometimes the family, to lower the victim's inhibitions with the objective of the scam or criminal activity.  Grooming includes the development of a trust relationship between the criminal and the victim, getting the victims to the point where they can be more completely manipulated.   phase to set them up for stronger manipulation
  • They are suggestible to gaslighting which is used as a control mechanism leading to the harvesting of the victim’s money
  • After the scam they are highly suggestible to other victims – since almost all victims are equally lost, this leads to belief in urban legends and misinformation spread by amateur instant experts. This is especially true in leading victims into dangerous and high-risk behaviors, such as scam baitingScam Baiting A foolish activity where a victim or nonvictim engages in deception and fraud to lead on a scammer into revealing information or for the sport of it. Deliberate deception online, regardless of the reason, is both unethical and in many places may also be illegal. While not prosecuted, Scambaiting has no legitimate benefit and should never be performed by victims since it is an act of revenge and only amplifies trauma. It is a reprehensible practice that is popularized by amateur anti-scam groups driven by their hate for fraudsters. Learn more: SCARS Position Statement Against Scambaiting and other forms of vigilantism
  • Even proper and professional support relies on an amount of suggestibility in helping victims overcome their experience

Susceptibility vs. Suggestibility

Popular media and layman’s articles occasionally use the terms “suggestible” and “susceptible” interchangeably. But they are not.

Suggestibility refers to the extent to which a given individual responds to incoming suggestions from another. The two terms are not synonymous, however, susceptibility tends to have a more negative bias absent from “suggestibility”. But in our work with scam victims, we use susceptibility (without the negative bias) to explain the overall set of vulnerabilities that either made (past tense) or continue to make victims susceptible to being scammed (manipulated).

In scientific research and academic literature on hypnosis and hypnotherapy, the term “suggestibility” describes a neutral psychological and possibly physiological state or phenomena. This is distinct from the culturally biased common parlance of the term “suggestible”. The term “susceptible” implies weakness or some increased danger to which one is more likely to become a victim. It, therefore, has a negative effect on expectation and itself is a hypnotic suggestion that suggestions must be noticed and guarded against. Both terms are often bound with undeserved negative social connotations not inherent in the word meanings themselves. We try to separate out the negative aspects of both of these terms in our work and education of scam victims, but it is important to know that the general public may view them as such.

To be suggestible is not to be gullible. The term ‘gullible’ pertains to an empirical fact that can be shown accurate or inaccurate to any observer; the former term does not. To be open to suggestions has no bearing on the accuracy of any incoming suggestions, nor whether such an objective accuracy is possible, as is the case with manipulated beliefs. Gullible, after all, means to be easily duped or cheated. Scam victims do not meet this definition most of the time.

Some therapists may examine worries or objections to suggestibility before proceeding with therapy: this is because some believe there is a rational or learned deliberate will to hold a belief, even in the case of more convincing new ideas, when there is a compelling cognitive reason not to allow oneself to be persuaded.

As It Applies To Romance Scams

Suggestibility plays a role in the overall susceptibility of a person to being defrauded, as do other cognitive biases, distortions, beliefs, and past traumas causing vulnerabilities.

Friends and family encouraging a person to engage in online dating – “they did and it worked out great” – are suggestions that the victim will have the same result. So the victim goes into the experience with expectations created by the suggestions of others. This creates the initial state that often causes the victim to ignore early problems, though usually, their own confirmation bias ignores them. Thus the person’s suggestibility helps to set them up to fail.

Of course, during the scam itself, their suggestibility is exploited heavily by the criminals through their application of grooming, manipulation, and control. The criminals use this aspect of the victim to feed them storylines and control clues to hold them in the scam and propel them to the final desired result.

Most concerning is how suggestibility, particularly in the words of other victims influences incorrect and dangerous behaviors after the scam ends.

It would seem completely logical that:

  • Scam victims are not experts just because they are a victim
  • That an experience that clearly traumatized a victim should require professional psychological help
  • That a supportive environment that focuses on fact-based and trauma-informedTrauma-Informed Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” A trauma-informed approach to care acknowledges that health care needs to have a complete picture of a patient’s life situation — past and present — in order to provide effective care services with a healing orientation. Adopting trauma-informed practices can potentially improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, and health outcomes. care should be what they look for immediately
  • That they are both traumatized and in need of real knowledge to help them understand this experience and recover from it

But the sad fact is that most victims do not recognize or accept these facts.

Instead, they buy into the false suggestions from other victims:

  • Other victims know best because they are victims and only they can understand what the victim feels
  • Hating criminals is natural and good for the victim
  • If they cannot get their money back, then engaging in vengeance (in its various forms) is natural and needed
  • They do not need to report these crimes since no one does anything anyway
  • These criminals are stupid, lazy, ugly thugs – without considering that these lazy stupid thugs outthought them
  • That anyone that disagrees with their new views is both wrong and probably a 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. themselves

Where This Leaves The Victim

In the end, their own suggestibility works against the victim before, during, and after the crime. Instead of simply placing acceptance in their own fallibility and finding the fact-based trauma-informed support (such as SCARS) that they need, they seek help from those who are not really committed to helping them and lack the knowledge needed to do it.

For this reason alone, the majority of victims will not successfully recover from their experience in an acceptable amount of time, and many will never recover.

In order to counter this misinformation, it is necessary to hammer on the real facts associated with these crimes and hope that victims understand how they have led themselves astray. As the saying goes, it is never too late to get the help they need.

If you are a victim, please read our 3 Steps Guide for New Victims and then contact us on Facebook to join one of our support and recovery groups!

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SCARS GREN BOOK - The SCARS STEPS Guide to Scam Victim Recovery

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This program is designed to help scam victims struggling to recover on their own and for those who want to understand the overall process. You can be using other resources, such as traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. 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. or therapy, qualified 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., or completely independent – on your own!

The SCARS Steps program is a complete program and is provided for the purpose of helping scam victims to overcome this experience. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues and challenges that a victim may have and help guide them through their recovery. But each person is different and it is important to understand your own reasons for being vulnerable to being scammed.

After the trauma of being scammed, you need to take steps to recover and move on. This may be an alternative to counseling in the short term, but we still encourage you to seek out professional help & support. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues, challenges, defects, or problems that a victim may have in a generalized way.

The SCARS GREEN BOOK will help you recover from your scam offline and it will always be there when you need it!

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A Guide For Families & Friends Of Scam Victims

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This SCARS Publishing book represents a complete guide to help the families and friends understand how these scams work and how to help the victim.

The SCARS Slate Book should be purchased by family and friends to better understand what happened to the victim and the traumatic impact on them. But it can also be shared by the victim so that they do not have to explain to family and friends about the scam. This publication is to help others to help Scam Victims to make it through this traumatic experience and recover.

Each person is different and it is important to understand how relationship scams work and why people are vulnerable; to being scammed, how they were lured in, then groomed and manipulated. This understanding is essential in helping them through the process of ending the scam and then on to recovery. The SCARS Slate Book will provide the information necessary to help support a victim through this process.

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Before or after reporting to the police the RED BOOK gives you a dedicated tool to record all the essential facts of this crime. The Victim, the Scammers, the Money, and your Police interactions. Everything that really matters can be easily recorded for your immediate use and for the future!

As we have seen, money recovery/repayment programs can become available years after the scam ends and you need to keep all the details of this crime in case it is needed. We have also seen scammers being extradited to the U.S. and other countries, this will help in the event you testify or give statements, Additionally, this helps you have your information ready to qualify for victims’ benefits, compensation, or aid.

The Official SCARS RED BOOK is your way of recording all the important facts of this crime so that you do not lose essential information, Complete the RED BOOK then put it away with the confidence that you will have it if or when it is needed.

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By the 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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