Missing the person you thought you were talking to is one of the most upsetting features of the aftermath of a scam, but there are ways to cope with these feelings.
Never Start Talking to the People Behind the Account or Screen Name Again
Many scam victims feel the urge to look the scammer's account up again after they have blocked and deleted them. Some victims reason that the scammer might be sorry for what they did, and willing to be friends. Others fear they might have hurt the scammer's feelings and want to exchange apologies in the hope that the two of them will politely drift apart. A few people think they might be able to reform the scammers if they offer friendship or try to help them get what they need without scamming. None of these things have ever happened. Scammers are fully aware of what they are doing and the impact it has on their victims; if it made them feel bad, they wouldn't be doing it. Nigerian and other scammers that operate in large, organized rings see what they are doing as a business. Americans who copycat them are working this as a side job to catch up on expenses or have a little extra money for themselves. Revenge scammers get a thrill out of hurting people. None of these are going to sit around contemplating what they've done to you and wish the two of you could be friends. Nobody hurts the scammer's feelings by cutting them off because scammers do not have genuine feelings for their victims. Money scammers are only sorry to see a source or potential source dry up. Revenge scammers are sad that what they see as their game or project is over. They don't miss the people they hurt. Don't be fooled into thinking the scammer might fall in love with you or grow to love you as a friend and mend their ways. This makes a charming ending for several episodes of "Catfish," but the scammers on the show are fully aware that their answers and claims are going to be on the show. It doesn't mean they are telling the truth about how they now think and behave. "Your love (or friendship) reformed me" is a common line scammers throw out as a method of luring their victims back in for another scam. Anytime you are temtped to give the scammers "a chance" to reform and be your friend, remember that scammers count on this very urge to lure their victims back in to the scam.
Think of the Person You Thought You Knew As You Would a Character from a Novel, Television Show, or Movie
The person you thought you loved was not real, and is never going to be real. They were a character created and portrayed by the scammer or scammers. It doesn't matter if you were scammed by an American who used their real name and a few real details about their lives. American scammers often work alone or in pairs or very small groups. Using a real name saves them the trouble of having to remember fake names and/or explain why they can't take a check made out to a certain name. Once you examine the additional real details, you will realize that those details had to be used because the scam would be discovered if they were faked. The person's life stories that cannot be traced, their personality, their values, and their reason for being in the online environment are still completely invented. The same holds true if the scammer didn't lie about being in Nigeria or Ghana. The only reason they told you they were in one of those countries is because that's where they want the money or illegal shipments sent. Absolutely everything else they told you was made up. Once you begin to see the person you were talking to as the fictional character they were, it will be a bit easier to emotionally untangle yourself from them. You may still have periods of wishing they were real, but you will eventually be able to stop believing they were real, and missing them.
This is not as easy as writing about it is making it sound. You may have to literally stop and remind yourself that the person is not real out loud for a while. Find a private moment whereever you are, and do this for yourself. Go into the bathroom if you have to, lock the door, turn the water on, and say "The person I knew as John A is not real. He was a character played by members of a group of young men in Nigeria" or "The John A I knew was not real. He was playing a fictional character he based on himself to make scamming women online easier for him and whatever friends he had involved." You will feel weird at first, but keep doing it. Eventually the thought will pop into your head any time you begin to miss the person you thought you knew and loved.
Have a Few Little Distractions Ready
Memories and ideas sometimes come flooding back unbidden. You have resisted the urge to talk to the scammer account again, reminding yourself that nobody using it wants anything to do with you as a person. The reminder about the person being a fictional character has been recited several times. Yet you remain stuck on the image of that little bed and breakfast the two of you talked about visiting for your first weekend away and that academic program the scammer was urging you to spend your time researching doesn't look so bad. Maybe they had a point and you should enroll in classes there.
Interrupt this process with one of your distractions. Make a list of little things you can do that are as unrelated to the scam as possible in each situation you might find yourself in. If you never discussed cleaning the employee bathroom, catching up on your filing, or responding to press inquiries at work with the scammer, those tasks might be on your list under "At Work." If you are at home, your list might include watching an episode of a television show you enjoyed before or after the scam, reading a brand new magazine, or picking up a new type of coffee or juice drink at the grocery store and enjoying a cup at the kitchen table or on the porch. Games, Pinterest boards, and web searches can also serve as quick distractions. Just make sure you don't select or zone in on something you associate with the scammer. This may feel like being lazy or doing "busywork," but it serves the purpose of making your mind focus on something that isn't likely to immediately circle back to the scammer and how much you wish you could talk to the character they played. As time passes, you will find yourself needing these little distractions less and less.
Avoid Putting Too Much Trust in New People Online or Offline
Sometimes the distraction we choose is a new bar, new bookstore, or new dating site or chatroom. Our members are adults and are allowed to spend their time wherever they choose. Wherever you go, do everything you can to keep yourself safe there. Keep the warning signs of a scammer in mind as you chat with new people online, and give yourself time to get to know new people online and offline before placing all your trust in them. There is always time to have the deep conversations you used to feel like you were having with the scammer.
Chat with Us
The Scams of the Heart chat room is a great place to come and talk to people who understand what you are going through. The topic immediately switches to "scams and scammers" when someone needs to talk about something related to their scam, but if everyone in the room wants to talk about other things, hanging out is more than welcome. Sometimes the reason the scammer's fictional persona is so deeply missed is because they are the only "person" the victim has been talking to for months or even a year or more. In these situations, simply having someone else to talk to can help ease the feelings of missing the person you thought you loved.