The Unique Shame Of Being Scammed Again

The Unique Shame Of Being Scammed Again

After The First Scam Things Change

Scam Victim Recovery – A SCARS Insight

When A Victim Allows Themself To Become Scammed Again It Is Quite A Different Experience Than The First Time

Notice that we said “allows” themself to be scammed again because it is a decision the second or third time around. However, every victim can recover from this!

The first scam was not the victim’s fault. They were lured in, groomed, manipulated, and controlled. But after that, with the awareness of the existence of scams, a victim has to decide to enter into a new stranger relationship to be scammed again. In other words, it requires a conscious decision on the part of the victim.

This changes everything for the victim and how they view scams and themself.

Shame & Guilt

Shame and guilt are moral emotions that result from deviations from internalized standards. Both constructs differ with respect to their origins, to the emotions accompanying them, and to their behavioral consequences.

Shame is associated with a loss of self-respect, social withdrawal, anger, and aggression. Guilt, on the other hand, supports prosocial behavior and motivates compensation for the inflicted loss.

Individuals struggling with relationship scam recovery experience intense feelings of guilt and shame.  In recovery, these feelings are worked through in treatment, therapy, and support & recovery programs such as SCARS offers.  But what happens when someone in recovery relapses, when they decide to re-enter a relationship with a stranger and it turns out to be another scam when the shame comes roaring back to the surface?

The danger in shame is that it keeps people struggling silently, and the only way to overcome shame is to talk about it.  When relapse is coupled with feelings of shame, it can prevent those needing help from asking for it and continuing on their journey of recovery.

Causes of Relapse

It is important to understand common triggers that can cause relapse so that those in recovery can be aware and learn to cope in healthy ways.

But first, it is important to understand that the victim has to make a decision to relapse. Understanding and accepting this is the key to returning to recovery.

Most Common Triggers

These are the most common triggers that occur before a relapse:

Withdrawal– Many individuals relapse within the first three months after ending the first scam. Remember that relationship scams cause a physical addiction, and like any addiction there are withdrawal symptoms. Because scams are not an external drug, withdrawal is typically over in a few weeks to a couple of months. But it can cause a victim to desire the return of those “warm and fuzzy” romantic feelings – to crave them and to rush into trying again for a new relationship.

Mental Health– Often with scam victimhood there are unaddressed or hidden mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, other disorders, or past traumas.  It is important to address these with professionals so that proper care can be taken.

People– Being around the same people who are engaging in or are in online or long-distance relationships while you are in recovery can trigger a relapse.  One should not surround themselves intentionally with other people who are in developing relationships unless they have a stable foundation in their own recovery. This is because it can cause emotional decisions and comparisons that can result in a new fake relationship.

Places– Any place that you may have associated with your previous scam is a place you would ideally want to stay away from.  This is also true of any reminders of the romantic feelings that you enjoyed during the first scam. The impacts of romance or relationship scam recovery on the human brain are so far-reaching that minuscule things may trigger an individual in recovery that may not even enter their conscious minds.

Things– Anything that you associate with the positive aspects of your first scam are things to be mindful of.  We are surrounded by “things” every day, so staying vigilant in recovery is important if a craving sets in.

Poor Self-Care– Proper self-care will make you feel better about yourself, and will be sending a message to yourself that you care about your well-being.  Conversely, poor self-care sends messages to yourself that you don’t care about your well-being. This tends to say to yourself that something is missing and this can lead to additional risk-taking when you should be playing it totally safe.

Relationships and Intimacy– If not in a relationship when entering recovery, it is encouraged that individuals abstain from these for their first year.  This is because individuals who are newly recovering may try to fill their void with an intimate partner (local or online), and if the relationship goes south it brings up overwhelming emotions. For a very small few, meeting someone new (hopefully locally) can be a path to more rapid recovery, but this is extremely rare.

Overconfidence– No matter how confident you feel, it is encouraged to follow recovery recommendations and engage in recovery-related behaviors and activities, and stay away from people, places, and things that are not aligned with your recovery. You do not know better. In fact, your biases and mentality after a scam are so highly emotional and impulsive that almost all scam victims are impaired in their thinking and decision-making, yet many victims feel so empowered that they assume that they are now an expert and know better than real professionals. This always leads to disaster.

Boredom and Isolation– When one is bored or isolated they are left with their own thoughts and emotions, which often do not want to be heard or felt.  During the romance scam, your time was filled with relationship interaction. Most victims spent dozens of hours a week interacting with their original scam(s) – the criminals used this as a way to dominate and control their victims. In recovery, it is important to develop healthy habits that get you out of your head and connected with others – such as our support groups. In recovery try to provide activities that substitute for the time spent with the scammer. Without replacement activities, it is easy to want to try it again out of boredom and inactivity.

Uncomfortable Emotions– When in recovery from a relationship or romance scam, individuals are going through several parallel processes, such as processing grief, dealing with trauma responses, blame & shame. Many victims will try to mask emotions with substances so they do not have to feel them.  Sobriety and recovery go hand in hand. Recovery is the journey of sitting with these emotions, knowing they will pass, and doing something positive with them day by day while the recovery process continues. This is one of the reasons that we recommend all victims see a local trauma counselor or therapist, and participate in a professionally managed support group.

Shame and Relapse

Shame destroys the very part of us that believes we are capable of change

Placing shame on top of relapse keeps people who are struggling quiet and in disconnects them from recovery.

Shame carries the inherent belief that there is something wrong with you.


Often in support group meetings context, this is referred to as “terminal uniqueness”, the belief that the individual is the only person to experience relapse.  In order to move away from shame and take the stigma out of relapse, it needs to be talked about. But often a victim will feel such shame, that ever attempt to help them is viewed as judgment and blame.

This Terminal Uniqueness does not just affect relapsed victims, it profoundly affects first-time scam victims too. That is why support groups are so important so that victims can see and feel that they are not unique, they are not alone.

Self Blame And Even Hate

Relapsed victims can’t imagine having to admit to other people and feeling that they not only let themselves down but also other victims that helped to support them. They often hate themselves and believe others hate or are angry with them too. They blame themselves without really accepting their role, and feel very isolated from the recovery process.

This is a point where more victims are unable to return to the recovery process or communicate with their support circle.

Getting Over The Shame of Relapse

Regardless of the reasons for your relapse, for allowing yourself back into another scam, the most important thing is that you don’t let it consume and destroy you. And it will if you let it. You made a bad decision, but that too is understandable and forgivable.

A scam relapse (or being re-scammed) can be an extremely frustrating and humiliating experience.

Feeling guilty and shameful typically accompany relapse. Afterward, you may even feel like a failure, especially after all the hard work you’ve put into your recovery. These feelings are normal at this stage and shouldn’t be ignored. However, once you acknowledge these feelings, it’s important to remember not to live in them. If you allow guilt, shame, and failure to control your life, it’s next to impossible to continue to recover and the trauma only deepens.

How To Begin Recovery Again!

So how do you pick yourself back up after a relapse? Here are some practical suggestions for overcoming feelings of guilt and shame after a relapse.

1. Take responsibility for your actions

It’s very tempting after a relapse to point fingers and play the blame game. It’s this person’s fault. It’s that person’s fault. It’s ALL my fault. While this is true, extremes like this should be completely avoided. Even if there is a culprit, it won’t help you move past the relapse. Taking responsibility for your actions is important, but this doesn’t mean living in self-pity or beating yourself up. After a relapse, accept responsibility for what you’ve done and move on. Look for support from friends and family, your counselor, and your support group, and make the best of another difficult situation.

2. Allow yourself to move on (give yourself permission to move on)

Mistakes are a part of life. We all make them. It’s how we bounce back from these mistakes that define us, not the mistakes themselves. Remind yourself about all the hard work that you’ve put into your recovery up to this point. Encouragement from family members, friends, and other supporters, will help you get back on the right path. Writing yourself a letter that reminds you of all your successes up to this point, may also help in shaking the associated feelings of shame.

Especially, write yourself a letter that you forgive yourself for this mistake!

3. Let it go – your screwed up and are smarter now

Relapse after a period of recovery can leave you with a lot to digest. There are typically intense feelings that arise, and letting go of them is easier said than done. Seeking additional help after a relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. A SCARS Support Group or your trauma counselor are the places to start. Remember, these can be a great way to resolve intense feelings in a safe environment. You will need help to process a relapse.

4. Stop the “Black and White” thinking

Scam victim recovery doesn’t follow any specific formula, in fact, everyone’s path is different. Relapse doesn’t require falling back into a full blown scam, it can be as simple as allowing yourself to read new emails from your previous scammer. A slip also doesn’t mean you have to “start over”. At worst it should be only a few steps backward in your quest for long-term recovery because you have not forgotten what you learned, you just ignored it impulsively. If you find yourself in this “all or nothing” type of thinking, be sure to remind yourself that this can be only a minor setback.


Getting over the shame of relapse is more than achievable, it’s necessary. With the right support and actions, relapse may even be the driving force that ultimately keeps you from ever being victimized again.

You can do this!

SCARS is here to provide the support and services needed to effectively face the original scam and any relapse. However, we are not a mental healthcare provider, so we also recommend that every victim should find a local trauma counselor or therapist.

Here are directories & resources to help you find a trauma professional:

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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


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PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.






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