The Emotional Impact of Fraud and Scams

It is a helpless feeling if you have been scammed. It often feels like there is nothing you can do to feel better. Most of the time the scammer can’t be found. All you can do is better protect yourself from further financial or legal harm.

Often, the terrible way a victim feels emotionally gets associated with their financial institution. These emotions can include: anxiety, shame, embarrassment, guilt, anger, depression, fear, loss of trust in others, loss of a sense of security, and grief.

Fraud victims need to find ways to take care of themself – such as leaning on their support system of family and friends. Financial institutions are also there if the victim needs help. It’s important to listen and empathize without judging even if it was an obvious scam. Remind them this does not mean they are stupid.

Scammers are EXTREMELY good at what they do!

They use tactics based on human psychology to get people to miss important clues that something is not as it seems.

  • One way they do this is to spend a lot of time talking with the person they want to scam to gain credibility, such as in romance or “sweetheart scams.”
  • Another is to emphasize that the person must act quickly to avoid a problem (like the IRS scams) or to gain something (such as a job).
  • Scammers often sound very friendly and concerned about the person they are trying to scam.

These are just a few examples of the skills scammers use to their advantage and it is important to encourage the person you care about to look at the situation realistically and determine what made her vulnerable.

Focus on what can be done. Help to get them educated on scams and how to prevent getting scammed again. Also, encourage them to report the crime. These are positive actions that help people heal. They are also focused on the future instead of the past, which can help shift a person’s attitude to see the situation as a lesson learned and a mistake instead of feeling like a complete failure in life. We all make mistakes at times, and to encourage victims to forgive themself can help them to find peace of mind.

Why Fraud Support Is Essential

Failing to properly help fraud victims will undoubtedly leave them feeling abandoned at a time of crisis and exposed to future scams. Victim support is not one-size-fits-all. Here we place victim support into four categories:

Prevention Support:

This could include up-to-date awareness education on the latest types of scams. Prevention support also includes online tools that can certify the safety of a website, verify a job opportunity, or test the validity of an email attachment.

Reporting Support:

Reporting fraud is important to help stop criminals and to prevent others from falling victim to the same scam. Reporting fraud has variations and levels of urgency. For example, knowing how to report a fraudulent wire transfer is much more time-sensitive than reporting a lost social security card.

Urgent Fraud Reporting.

This could include: wire transfers, ransomware attacks if you just paid a scammer, P2P payments, account takeover, sim-swapping, lost credit cards, investment fraud, a stolen wallet, etc.

Non-Critical Fraud Reporting.

While still time-sensitive, this could include: Identity theft, phishing, smishing, stolen mail, computer malware, elder fraud, tax identity fraud, social media fraud, a stolen cell phone or mobile computer, etc.

Active Support:

Active support is simply providing the fraud victim with additional materials after the fraud incident has been resolved. This can include a handout with "steps to protect your identity" if identity theft was the circumstance. Or a handout on "social media safety" if the scam occurred on a social network site. Not only does this help the victim avoid becoming a repeat victim, but it also demonstrates an additional level of assistance and expertise.

Passive Support:

The impact of scams on victims goes far beyond financial losses. Ultimately there is no such thing as a "victimless crime" when it comes to fraud. Being scammed can result in trauma, a sense of shame, and a knock on the victim's confidence that lasts for months or even years. The consequences go far beyond the financial. Even if the amount of money lost to a scam might not be life-changing, the impact on a victim's well-being might well be.

With heightened online anxiety during the coronavirus outbreak, people everywhere are feeling more vulnerable to online fraud. It is important to reinforce that fraud happens to millions of smart people every minute of the day. Fraud support ensures that you are doing your very best to reassure everyone that staying educated and aware is the only surefire way to avoid future scams.