Terminology For Scam Victims
Scam Related Terms

An Etymology Part 1

A SCARS Insight


In order to change the way outsiders view victims it starts with the way victims name and blame themselves.” – Dr. Tim McGuinness, SCARS Director

Remember … Talk about yourself the way you would like others to talk about you!” – Vianey Gonzales, SCARS Director

Knowledge of your own psychology during recovery is your most powerful tool in rebuilding yourself!” – Chris Fromal, SCARS Director

Important Terms That Should Be Used Or Understod


Meaning: expressive of a low opinion

Derogatory Remarks: A derogatory term is detracting from the character or standing of something —often used about a person.


Meaning of Pejorative: a word or phrase that has negative connotations or that is intended to disparage or belittle someone or something.

There are many derogatory words used to describe victims of crimes. These vary depending on the types of crime. Some are intended to be hurtful and demean the victim, some are intended to dehumanize them, others are intended to categorize them or make them unimportant.

Regardless, SCARS does not permit the use of derogatory terms at all in our support groups, recovery program, or comments on social media or our websites. It is simply too easy to let them creep into your thinking and your descriptions of yourself and other victims.

This is why we emphasize strongly the use of the right terms and phrases always. Another reason is the simple fact that there are many members of our groups who have other native languages and they may latch onto the wrong words thinking they are right.

This all comes back to the basic premise that victims are not to blame, and the terms we use should reinforce this.

It did take us years for SCARS to fully understand this, but as we have seen clearly this has benefits.


The Word Is Fraud – Not Scams

Definition Of Fraud: The intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value!

Every victim of a scam uses the word scam to describe the crime, but this comes at a cost.

Any victim, and their friends and family members should never refer to themselves as a scam victim.

Society treats the terms “scam” and “fraud” quite differently – we know that all scams are fraud, but scams are somehow less criminal in the eyes of many. This also impacts the reaction of the police, after all, fraud is something they deal with constantly and know and understand. But when they hear scam it automatically results in backing off because they know there may be nothing they can do.

We know these are serious crimes, so use a word that sounds more serious whenever talking about the crime – it was a FRAUD and you are the victim of FRAUD.

So remember, you were the victim of FRAUD, you are working against FRAUD, you are fighting against FRAUD!

It also sounds more serious and more professional! This will help you in explaining it to friends and family too!

Unfortunately, we are forced to use scam, scams, scammer, scammers constantly because these are the terms you are drawn to and how we get the search engines to show our pages. But just remember that the right word is fraud!


Meaning of Grooming: in the everyday world it means to clean up or enhance the appearance of something or someone, but when it relates to scams or crime it means to meticulously prepare someone (usually a victim) for some crime or sinister activity, such as grooming children or scam victims.

The criminals employ grooming to help transform victims to be ready for the comprehensive manipulation that they use to maintain control over victims.

There should be no shame in realizing that you were groomed – you did not see it at the time and were unprepared for it. We try to prepare children to avoid it, but mostly forget those lessons as adults. Once the grooming is in place then the criminals apply ever greater manipulation to maintain control and achieve their goals.


Meaning of Ignorant: not having enough knowledge, understanding, or information about something

Everyone is ignorant about something. There is no blame in being ignorant because everyone is.

However, it can be turned into a derogatory term if someone believes that the person should have known. But this is a bias and a false assumption.

Everyone is poorly educated about what they need to know, except for driving & flying – these are two of the universal education requirements in the world.

The result is that it is up to each person to decide what they need to know.

It is a fact that you all did not know what you needed online, BUT even people with the knowledge are still deceived. So knowledge is no guarantee of safety – as we have said before, behaviors based upon knowledge are what is needed, not knowledge alone.

There is no shame in being ignorant. Please remember that.


Definition of Limerence: The state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person – an infatuation!

So often people say that they were in love with the fake person in a romance scam, but is that really the case? Maybe, instead of using the phrase “in-love”, you should look at it as an infatuation. Why? Because when you tell yourself that you are in love it means that you were a willing partner in the romance. But if it was limerence, it means that it was not with your heart but rather a simple emotional reaction, in part based upon projection, in part because of need, in part because of grooming and manipulation.

By using the right words it makes it easier to accept, let go, and recover from a highly traumatic relationship. In other words, you were not in love with the fake identity (the criminals) but with the idea that they represented. This is important to shedding guilt and shame.


Meaning of Manipulate: to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means, especially in a skillful manner, such as to manipulate a person or thing – to manage or utilize skillfully an object, animal, or person – to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage – to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose

Online criminals manipulate their victims and leave them in a state of psychological distress and trauma. The manipulation serves to control the victim so that they will perform such tasks or activities that the criminal or criminals want them to perform.

Never forget that you were manipulated and for that reason, you are not to blame.


Meaning of Unwitting: Not knowing or being informed about or aware of something.

Meaning of Witting: Having specified facts or knowing about something or feelings actively impressed on the mind.

This mostly applies in the case of actions by a victim, such as being an unwitting victim – in that they did not know they were being scammed.

However it will be mostly used in the cases of victims that are turned into Money Mules – they were an unwitting participant or unwitting accomplice of the scammer.

Terms That Should Never Be Used About Victims & By Victims About Themselves

The following are actually derogatory words when used about victims.


Meaning of Blame: to find fault with – to hold responsible – to place responsibility for – to blame – at fault

One of the most common actions of scam victims is to blame themselves for the scam. They should have, could have, would have known better! But these are just a reflection of shame and your own biases. In fact, a typical victim makes only one mistake with their scam: beginning a conversation with a stranger. After this point, they lost control and are blameless.

Accepting responsibility for the consequences is not the same as accepting responsibility for the scam itself. The criminal is responsible for the scam, not the victim. Please remember this!


Meanings of Dumb: lacking intelligence – showing a lack of intelligence – asking dumb questions (no such thing) – a dumb look on his face (no such thing, it is an ignorant look) – requiring no intelligence (everything requires intelligence) – dumb luck – lacking the human power of speech – this is the real meaning of the word – dumb animals (well by definition all of them are, except for those that talk) – temporarily unable to speak (as from shock or astonishment) – struck dumb with fear – a trauma response – not having the capability to process information – can also be a trauma response – shock!

Dumb is both a descriptive word and a pejorative/derogatory word.

When we say we were dumb it can mean we were without a voice (not very common) or more commonly we were STUPID. Obviously, it implies blame when used in the common context.

No scam victim was dumb. They were ignorant, groomed and manipulated, and traumatized – but not dumb.

While it may be accurate to say you were struck dumb, it is best to avoid this word when describing yourself since others will misunderstand. You always want to be precise when talking about these crimes, both for your own comfort and to help others better understand them.

Never use the word DUMB about yourself, even in joking, or about any other victims!


Meanings of Dupe: one that is easily deceived or cheated : (a FOOL) – to deceive or cheat easily : to make a dupe of someone

Being duped or being a dupe implies blame because it easily happened – per the meaning of this word.

So many of the words we use we do not really know, or what they really mean. Remember that the words you use matter!


Meaning of Fool: A person who acts unwisely or imprudently; a silly person. Implies blame!

Calling someone a fool means they are incapable of understanding the risks before during and after. But it ignores ignorance, grooming, and expert manipulation.

Scam (fraud) victims are not fools, they were uninformed, and lacking the information were not able to assess the risks or the fraud as it was unfolding. But eventually, they understood and ended it – that is not the sign of a fool!


Meaning of Guilty: A person justly chargeable with a particular fault or misdeed.

Often scam victims feel very guilty, not out of a legal definition of guilt, but they feel like they should have been able to avoid the fraud and recognize it. But again this comes down to ignorance about the existence of these crimes and the skills of the criminals to groom and control the victims.

No victim should ever feel guilt or be accused of it by others.

However, there is one exception to this and that is when a victim becomes a Money Mule for the very criminals that were defrauding them to begin with. We know that victims can be converted into money mules without really knowing they are doing it. They have been manipulated to the point where they believe everything the criminals are telling them. But in the eyes of the law, it is not always simple. The law might assign guilt for money laundering (or other actions) and it may take a trial to establish guilt or innocence.


Meaning of Gullible: a person who is easily duped or cheated.

This implies blame based upon the word “Easily” and it ignores the fact that ANYONE can be deceived.

If a victim is gullible, it implies that other victims are gullible too. If one person is gullible, then all people are gullible too.

Instead, victims are ignorant – lacking information to avoid deception, and are full of human biases that can be manipulated. Remember, everyone is ignorant about most things in the world – there is no shame in not knowing something.

The truth is that NO Victim is gullible, but every victim is human and can be lured, groomed, and manipulated.

Also remember that instead of gullible, a victim may be in denial which may appear to be gullible to the outside but is something distinctly different.

Never use this word to describe yourself or any other victims. Or rules do not permit the use of derogatory terms for victims or blaming victims.

Just remember that part of the challenge of supporting victims is to have them accurately viewed and represented. 40 years ago sexual assault victims were similarly blamed through the use of the terms that were applied by society, the police, their families and friends, and by themselves. 20 years ago it was the same for domestic abuse victims. We can only change these perceptions by carefully choosing the words we all use.


Meaning of Naive: A person showing a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment – implies blame

Noice that ignorance is not there.

Scam victims are not naive, they are simply ignorant and unprepared. There is no shame in not knowing something, Don’t let someone call you naive, instead just admin that you did not know.

Should you have known? That is a more difficult question. But if you did not know what the risks were, then how could you know what you had to learn to prevent them. It is better to accept that you did not know and dedicate yourself to learning what you need now.


Meaning of Stupid: A person showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense. Implies blame!

Any stupid people here? No, not really. Scam victims are not stupid and should never let anyone tell them that they are, including calling themselves this.

It is a fact that scam victims made a mistake, and especially after the scam can continue to make bad decisions but that is not stupidity just wrong thinking – a known problem for those that are traumatized.

Additional Terms Of Importance


Meaning of Behavior: the way in which someone conducts oneself or behaves – the manner of conducting oneself (such as criminal behavior, adolescent behavior, high-risk behavior) – anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation – the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment – the way in which something or someone functions or operates

Meaning of Behave: to manage the actions of (oneself) in a particular way – to conduct (oneself) in a proper manner – to act, function, or react in a particular way
to conduct oneself properly

When we talk about behavior we are referring to both GOOD BEHAVIOR and BAD BEHAVIOR. But behavior is contextual. What is good in one context can be bad in another. For example: being trusting and generous can be good as a parent with your children, but bad with strangers online. However, there are also defensive behaviors that work in both good and bad situations or contexts, such as taking your time to make significant decisions. Learning to push pause on serious decisions is a good behavior (assuming it is not taken to the point of paralysis.)

All scam victims need to change their behaviors to reduce risk and allow for the logical mind to have more control in decision making.


Definition of Encouragement: The act of giving someone confidence or hope!


Definition of Recovery: A return to a normal state of health, or mind; the process of regaining control of something lost.


Definition of Support: To hold up or serve as a foundation, give assistance to, to help enable to function or act.

Vicarious Victimhood

Definition of Vicarious Victimhood: Is when a friend or family member is almost as touched & traumatized by the scam as the victim


We hope that exploring these terms will help you look at your perceptions differently. Words have profound meaning and the words we use help to shape our thinking – that, right there, is social engineering! But you can socially engineer yourself too – that is the whole purpose behind motivations!

SCARS Publishing Self-Help Recovery Books Available At shop.AgainstScams.org

Scam Victim Self-Help Do-It-Yourself Recovery Books

SCARS Printed Books For Every Scam Survivor From SCARS Publishing

Visit shop.AgainstScams.org

Each is based on our SCARS Team’s 32-plus years of experience.

SCARS Website Visitors receive an Extra 10% Discount
Use Discount Code “romanacescamsnow” at Checkout

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

Go to reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn how

U.S. FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and SCARS at www.Anyscams.com
Visit reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn more!