The Challenges In Supporting Impersonation Scam Victims

The Responsibility To Help Victims Understand The Mechanics Of Scams

Many times this will conflict with their beliefs

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Our Responsibility Is Sometimes To Deliver Hard Truths

A Discussion About Impersonation Scams And Accepting The Reality Of How They Work

One of the great challenges of helping scam victims is that while we do accept what they tell us, but it is not always based upon actual fact. We have an obligation to help them understand the reality of such situations.

What we mean specifically, is that when a scam victim identifies the scammer this is not always going to be as the victim believes. We mean that scammers do impersonate other real people constantly. In fact, there are billions of fake profiles in use on every imaginable platform.

We also have a duty to alert others. But to do so in a way that does not defame the person being impersonated even if this conflicts with what individual victims believe. We frequently post collections of stolen photos labeled that they are being used by scammers as a means of alerting anyone that sees them that there are scams where they are being used. We allow law enforcement to make the final determination about any specific individual’s innocence or not.

Unfortunately, not all victims can accept this. This can be too hard a truth to accept, and instead, they will turn on the assistance provider, even going so far as to enlist others in campaigns against those trying to help (such as SCARS). This happens more frequently than we would like, and in such cases, we turn the matter over to our attorneys and to our partners in law enforcement – since this is also a crime under United States Code Title 18 U.S. Code § 2261A

It is hard to tell people who firmly believe in the guilt of an individual that they should not blame the person that appears in the photo, that it is most probably an impersonation. It is much more satisfying for them to believe in that guilt, and just like with the scam itself – their cognitive biases make it very hard to accept anything else.

We are here to help them see the reality of scams and how they work, but we are not a mental health organization and are not able to address the psychological issues that might present themselves. This is often offensive to a small set of victims, and in those cases, we refer them to trauma counselors or therapists to help them work through those issues.

We are here to help those that can accept how scams function. We are here to help them understand that if law enforcement does not believe the person is the scammer, then they should let that go and focus on their own emotional recovery. We are not here to defame real people or participate in others’ actions to do this. We are not here to sustain mistaken beliefs when all indicators show that the person they want revenge against may be or is a victim themself. In those cases we try to help the victim see how impersonation scams work, and even how almost-perfect they appear. This is a hard thing to deliver to someone when they need to be listed to.

Unfortunately, we are in the business of delivering hard truths and there are many who will hate us for it. That is ok. We help those that we can.

More often than not, such victims will gravitate to hate groups or pull in other victims who are of like mind, and the result is obviously that they will not get the help they need. This will prevent their recovery and recapturing the lost selves the left behind, instead, they will remain fixated on their need for vengeance.

There is a very fine line between support and delivering truth that can allow a victim to free themselves from the scam and the past and look to the future, and supporting mistaken beliefs that keep a victim trapped into their post-scam belief system is on the other side of that line.

After the scam has been reported to law enforcement, and the police do not initiate an investigation of a known person or celebrity, the odds are quite great that it was an impersonation. And it is important to remember that we also have a responsibility to the impersonation victims too. When it comes to a conflict between the scam victim and the impersonation victims, we do what we can to help the scam victim understand that their belief may not be fact.

This is the seemingly impossible paradox of scam victim support. We automatically believe all victims, until the information directs itself into a nonfactual direction. Then we do our best to help the victim understand the reality of these horrible crimes. Unfortunately, about 60% of victims will be unable to accept this situation.

It is not that the scam did not happen, they do. It is not that they were not scammed by fake identities attached to a face, that also happened. But it is that final conclusion that if A equals B then B equals X – the leap that if a scam happened using the photo of a real person, it must be the real person that committed the scam. If we cannot make it clear to them that it was an impersonation scam, then we refer them to trauma counseling for additional support.

This is the process we follow. We understand the trauma of the experience and the process of scams and have created a support & recovery program for these victims. We understand that good people are scammed out of everything they have, but resolute belief is not always correct. We do our best to guide victims along the path of truth. They are free to disagree, and frequently their response is that we are the scammers. Something that does not support their grasp of the situation.

We are the largest such victims support organization, supporting victims worldwide. But the sad truth is that we cannot help everyone directly due to denial or aggression. We help those that are realistic enough that they can see how scams work and are able to actively participate in their own recovery. The rest we will have to help indirectly through our publications and media.

We do believe every victim’s story is their story, and we will work to help them understand the truth from mistaken beliefs so they can move forward. When we reach a point where our services are not appropriate we refer them to competent professional help. This is our model and conformant with our ethical standards.

Impersonation scams are very hard because of these issues. You see a face and you are sure it must be the real criminal but law enforcement refuses to take action. It is all just one big corrupt system. Then we come along and we try to tell you that it was not the person in the photo, and you cannot accept that. You just KNOW it is the person – they are the scammer – why won’t anyone listen to you? We must be scammers too.

Our’s is a re-entry process of helping victims recover from their experience and return to their former lives as best that they can. When we encounter defamation, anger and hate, and self-harming beliefs we do our best to correct these with as much fact and compassion as may be available, but at times it will fail.