By Soraya Grant
The period right after learning you have been scammed can bring some special challenges. You are probably going through the process of grieving for the person you believed you loved, getting your eating, sleeping, and other daily routines back on track, and redisvovering your interests and tastes right now. You may also experience some unfamiliar and unsettling attitudes.
You See The Scammer Everywhere
Every time you use a new web site, anybody whose screen name is at all similar to the scammer's name or the name the scammer used with you must be the scammer. If they used their real appearance, everyone of the same gender with the same hair color makes you jump. Victims of foreign scam rings "know" the scammer is after them every time they hear someone with an accent from the country their scam originated speak. American scammers' victims are sure the scammer is following them every time they see a car with a license plate from the scammer's actual or even pretend home state.
Coping With This:
Remember that the scammer is not going to come after you. They may send you a series of threatening emails, IMs, or texts, but sending a nasty message only takes a few seconds and they can do it while they're working other victims. Taking the time to come after you would disrupt their work.
Nigerian and other foreign scam rings scam as a business. It is their primary source of income, and they'd have to spend a huge chunk of their profits on travel and take time off from "work" to come after you. They're not going to do this when it would be better for the ring's bottom line for them to just work the victims who haven't discovered the scam yet a little harder and fish for some new ones.
American money scammers run their scams as second jobs, the way you would write a monetized blog, try direct sales, or get temp jobs to pay unexpected bills, have things you want but can't afford on your normal income, or have some extra spending money. Like the Nigerian scammer, they would have to spend more money to come after you than they would make if they spent that same time period working their active scams and fishing for new ones.
Scammers who work their scams strictly for revenge are also going to stay away from their victims offline. If the scam was run by someone who chose victims at random, that person gets their thrill from manipulating and conning people. It's going to be more enjoyable for them to target someone new than it would be to come after someone who realized they were a scammer.
Even personal revenge scammers, those scammers who target a specific person in retaliation for something, will find it in their own best interest to stay away from you. The scam was cruel, but it wasn't a crime. Stalking or attacking you would be crimes. The person already got away with hurting you in a way that can't lead to any real punishment for them. They aren't going to risk getting arrested to repeat the process.
You See Somebody Else Trying to Scam, Use, or Hurt You Everywhere
Scamming is cruel, and having something cruel done to you can make you expect more cruelty. You may attempt to make new friends online and off but find yourself thinking everyone is just spending time with you to work up to asking for illegal favors or money, or is just manipulating you for their own ego. If you run into someone you've known for a while, then you assume they're only your friend because you'll give them rides or help them with their yard work or watch their kids. You're pretty sure everybody at church, political or social cause meetings, work, or school is just going to turn out to be a big jerk if you let them get close.
Coping With This:
Take a step back and evaluate every situation on a "case by case" basis. Is the new person you are talking to online displaying any red flags of being a scammer? Are they claiming a connection or love early on, hinting for money, mentioning Nigeria or Ghana, appearing to live a life that doesn't match the one they describe, using repeated lines? If they exhibit none of these signs, there is a good chance that person isn't a scammer. Is the new person you met at work showing signs they may be using you? Do they only want to spend time with you when they need favors? Are they making a big deal about finding you attractive in front of their spouse or dating partner, as though they are trying to make them jealous? Do they seem to be hiding you from all their other friends? If the answer to these are all "no," the person probably isn't using you and really wants to be your friend.
You Become Too Trusting
You still know the red flags online, but as soon as you don't see them, or as soon as you meet someone offline and are sure they're not hiding their entire life, you are so happy to meet someone genuine, you leap into a friendship or dating relationship with them. It's just so nice to be talking to someone who isn't a scammer.
Coping With This:
Evaluate situations that feel good on a case by case basis just as you would evaluate situations that make you suspicious on a case by case basis. The world is not neatly divided into scammers and wonderful people. There are plenty of people out there, online and offline, that may not be playing fake people or fake versions of themselves to lure you into fake relationships for money or revenge, but still don't have your best interests at heart. Unmoderated "clean chat" chat rooms may have been set up for friendship, but many of them are full of people who only want to talk to you until they can work the conversation around to finding out if you're someone they find physically attractive so they can hit on you for cybersex or an offline affair. Every gathering place, online or offline, will contain good people, and people who may scam, use, or otherwise harm you. Practice those safety guidelines you've been hearing forever. Spend time in a public place with anyone you don't know well. Don't give out too much personal information to anyone you are not close to. Avoid being too open with people until you are confident you can trust them with the information.
You Have the Urge to "Treat Yourself" In a Big Way
After all you've been through, you deserve your favorite television series or movie collection on DVD or instant video.....or a new wardrobe....brand new furniture for the patio...twenty new books...a whole new toolbox....dinner out every night. Many scam victims lose money to the scammer and figure they might as well just blow everything that's left. Others were about to send money and feel like they have extra since they almost lost it. Some just feel they deserve a big treat after all they've been through.
Coping With This:
You do deserve a treat, but be careful. Sit down and go over your finances carefully to determine how much money you can spare at this time. If it is a much smaller amount than the treat you really want, try a smaller version of that treat. You could buy yourself one season of a television show on instant video or DVD, a single new outfit, book, or tool, or go out for one nice dinner. Never punish yourself for being scammed, as it was in no way your fault. Just don't give yourself the added stress of ruined or further ruined finances on top of dealing with the scam.
You Experience Moments of Confusion Over What is Real and What Was Part of the Scammer's Story
Things are going pretty well. In fact, just today you were making an online pin board about baseball, a sport you always used to follow closely before the scammer began taking up all your time. One of the items you added to your board reminded you of a chat you had with a friend about the city that hosts your favorite team. Who was that? Was it your coworker? The vendor that was at work yesterday? The girl who was building your porch? Or wait..no...that was a chat with the scammer.
Coping With This:
First, take comfort in the fact that this will fade away in time. You will gradually start talking to more and more people about the things that interest you, and the mention of specific subjects will remind you of that conversation instead of scammer conversations. You're thinking about the scammer's conversations right now because that's who you've been talking to almost exclusively for a period of time. Until it fades, it may help to have a small distraction technique. Pinpoint some behavior that has absolutely no connection to the scammer. It doesn't have to be anything dramatic. Drive or walk to a restaurant or store you never visited before and have a drink, snack, or meal if you can afford it. Take a walk around a block you normally don't visit. Put in an old movie you haven't thought to watch in years. Do a web search on the first city that comes to mind that has no connection to the scam. This doesn't have to take all day. Just eat, walk, watch, or read long enough to concentrate your mind on something with no link to the scam for a bit.