Saturday, July 27, 2013

Stop Blaming Yourself For the Scam

by Soraya Grant

The only people who are at fault during a scam are the people who are involved in running the scam, but you would never know that if you listened to the inner voice of many scam victims. As soon as we learned we have been scammed, most of us let loose with a verbal beating that we would not give to our worst enemy.

"How could I have missed the horrible word usage and grammar?"
Victims of Nigerian and other foreign scams often look back and realize the person they thought they were communicating with was actually somebody who struggled to speak English or seemed to speak in long uninterrupted paragraphs that, now that they look closely at them, were clearly cut and pasted from somebody else's chat log or web page. You begin wondering how anyone, including you, didn't pick up on this right away. When this happens, remember that context and situations play a huge part in the way all human beings perceive things.

The television show "Would You Fall For That?" is a new series about lighthearted hoaxes designed to reveal psychological quirks that all people share. In one experiment, the show's hosts had a child who had never painted before randomly throw some paint on canvas. The results were then presented as an art show by an art prodigy. Many people were filmed talking about the work, and even art experts believed that they were looking at real paintings. They saw the splashes of paint, but instead of interpreting them as randomly splashed paint, they interpreted them through the lens of looking at the work of an art prodigy at an art show. Dark splashes were anger. Swirls were confusion. Why? Because the situation was set up for them to believe they were looking at real art at an art show and that's what they would think if they were interpreting art.

The same thing happened to you when you encountered the foreign scammer's odd way of speaking. You saw it, but instead of interpreting it as somebody struggling with the language or cutting and pasting, you interpreted it through the lens of truly dating a real person you met online. Poor English became bad typing skills and cutting and pasting became a long winded person. Why? Because the situation was set up so that you would believe you were talking to real person in a real relationship with you, and that's what you...or anyone..would think if you were speaking to a real person online who typed this way.

This detail mainly applies to victims of Nigerian and other foreign scams, but victims of all types of scammers, including Americans, may be beating themselves up over repeated lines or words scammers use to save time. Again, you were not stupid. You did what any human being would interpreted what was happening in accordance with the situation you believed yourself to be in.

"How could I have been naive enough to tell this person I loved them and make a commitment to them?"
You weren't naive. You were set up. The scammer may have told you they loved you very early on in the relationship, but before that, they carefully crafted a perfect person for you. It already looked like a miracle or a special blessing or burst of good fortune that you even met somebody so well suited to you. When that person fell in love with you right away, you didn't see it for the red flag you now know it to be. You saw it as an extension of the miracle or run of good fortune that had already begun when you met them.

The scammer set you up to expect miracles in your dating life by making you believe you had already met the greatest man or woman you would ever meet, so when they said "I love you" or "I feel a connection between us" or "I think I've found the one" you saw what you had been set up to see.

"How could I be so stupid as to send them money/offer them money/reship packages/do banking for this person?"
Most people would do this for someone dealing with the impossible hardship and suffering the scammers describe. The problem isn't that you were willing to do such generous things, the problem is that the scammer was not who they said they were and the situation they described didn't actually exist. The scammer used your feelings for the character they created, and strengths such as generosity and empathy, to manipulate you into believing the situations did exist. It had nothing to do with being stupid.

"They must have picked me because they could tell I have no self confidence in..."
The vast majority of scammers pick their victims at random. While they will certainly use low self confidence about your intelligence, appearance, or anything else you may not feel good about to mentally manipulate you, they did not choose you because of anything you project. Nigerian scammers and American money scammers communicate with anybody they think they can brainwash into sending them money...and that would be anybody who speaks to them. American revenge scammers go for anybody they think they can mess with, which again, is anybody who speaks to them. Even if your scammer was somebody who knows you and targeted you personally, it still isn't because you brought it on. It's because they chose to deal with whatever inspired them to run the scam by doing something devious and cruel instead of dealing with it in a normal way.

"It's my fault. If I didn't flirt with everybody I found attractive or post so many shirtless/swimsuit/glamour photos on my web pages, this wouldn't happen."
Notice that this is the exact opposite of the section above it. Scam victims tend to blame their own character flaws or quirks for the scam, no matter what they are. But it is never the fault of the victim. A scammer will certainly use high self-confidence in their manipulation tactics, but they would also use any other trait a victim had. And it does not matter if you flirted with the person. Does every person you have ever seen flirt with anyone get scammed by that person? Flirting does not cause scamming. Neither does having a perfectly chaste conversation, or speaking in short sentences, or speaking in long sentences. Scamming is never a punishment for anything you did or said.

"If I weren't so needy, I would have picked up on the red flags a lot sooner."
The desire to believe someone loves you is not "needy." Human beings are social creatures. It is the way we are designed. Numerous health problems have been linked to loneliness and social isolation. While it is true that we often don't see the red flags because we work to convince ourselves that there is a reasonable explanation behind them, that does not mean you are "needy." It means you are a perfectly normal human being.

"It's my own fault for not telling a family member or friend and keeping secrets."
Scammers socially isolate their victims by giving them projects, messing up their schedules, and demanding secrecy in the relationship as a loyalty test. If you do manage to tell someone, and the person points out the suspicious details of the story, the scammer is ready to convince you that the person is just jealous. It is a good idea to tell someone you already know well and trust about any online relationship you enter into, no matter how casual. There is a better chance they will notice odd details that you won't, since you are being worked on by the scammer and they are not. But you did not cause the scam by keeping the relationship secret.


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