• Global Anti-Scam Org

How to Support Scam Victims, Including Yourself

By: Adil Ryan Lahreche, Head Counsellor, Huddlehumans

Huddlehumans is a mental health organization that provides 24/7 mental health support in an anonymous, safe, and affirming environment. They can be found on the Discord app, as well as on the Telegram app. More information can be found on their website www.huddlehumans.com.

It is a helpless feeling when you or someone you care about have fallen victim to a scam. The feelings of hopelessness, and the never-ending thought of nothing you can do to feel better, is often the first feeling scam victims experience. Furthermore, victims can also experience unbearable emotional pain, shame, guilt, discriminatory labels, and the feelings of being judged and exposed, amongst many others. More often than not, this leads most victims to suffer in silence, ultimately affecting their mental health in a severe manner. Thus, this article by huddlehumans hopes to provide you with useful tools that you can utilize during such difficult times.

Firstly, it is good to know some of the most common emotional distresses that scam victims may encounter:

● anxiety

● shame

● embarrassment

● guilt

● anger

● depression

● fear

● loss of trust in others

● loss of a sense of security

● grief

So… How do I face emotional distresses after being scammed?

1. Accept your emotions

When one or more psychological distresses happen, victims often suffer through these types of emotions for an extended period of time. The positive thing to take away is that these negative feelings are a normal reaction to a scam encounter. However, it is important to note that such feelings aren’t permanent. Research have shown that by accepting our emotions instead of suppressing and avoiding them, will eventually allow your negative emotions to lose their power over your emotional state, and consequently lose their intensity. Scam victims may also experience something called “Trauma Denial”, which is a way to put distance between them and an overwhelming experience. Denial is a type of defence mechanism that involves ignoring the reality of a situation to avoid anxiety. Victims who experience the instant vanishment of huge sums of money or deep love, may face denial. In other words, denial is a shield to disconnect a victim emotionally and mentally from the traumatic event (being scammed). Research have shown that although denial might help in the short-term, it will eventually be too overwhelming for one to suppress their true emotions and feelings in the long run. Ultimately, understanding why trauma denial happens and accepting to live with it, can become a more powerful long-term tool for victims to heal the pain.

2. Find supportive family members and friends

Social and family support is one vital area that can provide you a safe place to seek help. You should always find a trusted person that can provide you a sense of unconditional positive regard. This will allow you to feel like you are in a safe environment where you are not being judged, ultimately allowing you to open up on your emotions freely. Therefore, the listener you choose has to be very sensitive and must affirm your trust in them. Research have also shown that by talking about your psychological distresses, for example anxiety, can increase the chances of mitigating such emotional distresses, assist your trauma-processing, and decrease thoughts of self-harm.

3. Self-care

Self-care strategies takes steps aim towards targeting negative thoughts and emotions. Some great examples of self-care techniques include deep breathing, exercising, eating healthily, consciously relaxing your shoulders, or even just stepping out of a tense situation for a few minutes. Other self-care strategies can also involve participating in regular activities that you enjoy the most, as well as the avoidance of drinking alcohol or drugs - as these are maladaptive coping methods that causes more harm than good in the long run. Overall, these strategies may help victims to strengthen their resilience in handling stress.

4. Monitor and change your thinking

Our thoughts influence our emotional state, which will thereafter motivate some form of behaviour in response. For example, ruminating about what has happened will keep you focused on negative internal self-talks. This will often lead to an increase of emotional distress and can leave you in a constant state of feeling miserable. Instead of ruminating, you should be focusing your thoughts on things you CAN do. So, learn to forgive yourself, because no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, and we all have the opportunity to learn from such negative experiences. This is what it means to be human.

5. Ask for help when you need it

Often, victims think they should be able to handle issues by themselves, but the fact of the matter is that we all need help in some point in our life. It does not hurt to ask a trusted family member or friend for help. If you still can’t get your thoughts or emotions back under control, try seeking an expert in the field such as a counsellor to talk to. Other forms of help can include peer-support groups (online or offline), talking to a doctor, or even contacting a help hotline that is available in your country.

How do I support someone who has been scammed?

1. Listen and empathize without judgment

Offering a shoulder to cry on is important and can make a world of a difference. More important, however, is to listen and empathize without judging the victim. This is because victims are probably already judging themselves much worse than anyone else could ever have. Thus, it is certainly a priceless gift to have someone to talk to that will not judge them for the mistakes that they have made. Moreover, this will also allow them to process what has happened in a safe environment so that they can figure out at their own pace how they can progress positively from the incident.

2. Things you should NEVER say to a Scam Victim

“What were you thinking?”

“How could you be fooled by that?”

“I would never have fallen for that.”

“Everybody knows about that scam.”

Let’s face it. These statements can only bring on even more embarrassment, shame, and self-doubt to the victims. This isn’t helpful at all. Do not do it. What we should be doing instead is to remind victims that all of us can be vulnerable to a scam at some point in our life.

3. Be solution-oriented and not problem-oriented

It is very common that victims think endlessly about the things they wished they could have done differently. Victims often get emotionally “stuck” in this train of thought, and for many reasons are unable to get themselves out of this unhelpful thought pattern. By encouraging them to focus on the things they can control, will provide a small help in getting victims to “unstuck” themselves. For instance, some strategies that victims can control are getting educated on scams such as the psychological tactics scammers use, reporting such crimes to the relevant authorities, or even getting involved with an organization that supports people who have been scammed (such as GASO!). These are positive actions that can help scam victims heal, allowing them to change their attitude to that of seeing the situation they have caught up in as a lesson learned rather than feeling like a complete failure in life.

4. Encourage victims to forgive themselves

Research have shown that a person who have been scammed may feel like a complete failure in life after they realise what has happened to them. They lose sight of the fact that although the consequences may be harsh, it is still a mistake and not a statement about who they are as a person. We have to let victims understand that we all make mistakes from time to time, and to encourage them to forgive themselves so that they can find peace in their mind again.

Final thoughts

If there is one thing to take away from all of this, is to always be kind to yourself and understand that we all make mistakes from time to time. Do not be harsh on yourself, and always be mindful of your mental health during difficult moments. Remember, you are never alone. There is always help out there waiting for you.

If you want to be admitted into the GASO community to find others with similar experiences, please contact GASO live chat box or email info@globalantiscam.org.