One of the worst feelings you can experience in life is when you’ve been conned, duped or scammed. Perhaps you simply made a single mistake. It may have happened in a weak moment: you were in a hurry, possibly something about the opportunity on offer or the other person caught your attention and sympathy. You’d signed whatever was brandished, and then found you’d signed up to something you did not support at all.
Or a person wormed their way into your confidence, perhaps a new acquaintance or family member, and that seemingly benign person turned out to have a very ugly or deceptive side to their nature. You’d trustfully told them things, warmed by their apparent interest or disarming manner, and here they are now, betraying those discussions to the world without a skerrick of concern.
Perhaps they’ve stuck things up on Facebook, or caused an image to go viral so that you’re doomed to relive a private hell.
Despite confronting them, the damage has been done. You feel many things: anger, stupid, embarrassed, disbelieving, even in denial (especially if you were close to that person). You may very well be out of pocket, too. Either way, you’ve metaphorically had the carpet ripped out from underneath, and you’re sprawled untidily, ignominiously.
There’s a few things to remember in this situation.
Move beyond denial
If you’re in denial, perhaps because you like or believe this person, it’s time to wake up and take off your blinkers. The trickster, if you’ve had repeated contact, gives themselves away by the mean things they say and do under a very pleasant exterior.
It may be your manager, a member of your team, a relative or friend and you may have witnessed this person having beguiled an entire group of people over many years with a “Buddha’s face and a scorpion’s heart”. Con artists of all descriptions wouldn’t be so successful if they weren’t skilled, VERY skilled in some instances.
A good way to spot these people is by the confusion they create, but invariably it won’t be just you that uncovers this bad egg.
Learn from the bad experience
You’re furious that you fell for this, but you need to heed the lesson – scream if you like, vent if you will, mentally bludgeon the other person if you must. Go on, do it. But chances are that’s what they wanted, to find a suitable victim and laugh while that person squirms.
The fraudster is the pits in human personality terms. So you should not oblige them any further than you already did. Recognise your own failings and what you could do in the future not to be caught out. If it is about loaning things that never get repaid – don’t do it. If you’ve been a doormat and fooled – don’t be again.
Learn how to recognise your hint of misgiving as a huge red flag in future. You’re now (sadly) educated, having learned a wretched lesson through this experience.
Some people go on forums to ask questions when they suspect a scam. For example, see conversations like this on Reddit.
Cease contact with that person / persons immediately and permanently
Don’t enter into any discussions with them. You may long to go vigilante and bring the offender unstuck, but that’s a route to even bigger trouble.
Very few succeed in avenging themselves, and if / when they do, luck and years of covert surveillance usually accomplished this end. If this is a person at work – see HR. Have ethical boundaries been crossed? Have laws been broken?
Try to salvage what you can
Depending on what’s been lost, you may choose to file a complaint with the relevant authorities (the police, private detectives). Or you can report matters to consumer watchdogs, auspice organisations.
You can put out a warning to friends and loved ones (be careful how you do this; the laws of defamation and slander are alive and well).
Be more aware in the future
Scammers are highly mobile, unaccountable, evasive and know how to get around the law. They know how to build trust, often in small steps. Never go for anything where information seems unclear, there’s no points of contact, and certainly don’t sign the dotted line (and your account details) unless you’re comfortable with the arrangement and know that you have recourse, should things go wrong.
Finally, a word of caution when dealing with some professions and contractors you’d expect to be ethical. They are not technically scammers, but you may have paid a lot of money to these people, with little to show for it (on their part). They may be a nice, fatherly or motherly type who had the first meeting with you and then mysteriously disappeared, to be replaced by non-caring, slow-moving subordinates.
Be (politely) on your guard at the first meeting, try not to give into your emotions (even if they’re close to the surface) and ask the necessary questions that protect your interests, including what you’re up for. Get things in writing and add milestones before outright payment. If you believe your questions are not being met with clear, straight responses, if your communiques aren’t acknowledged and answered fairly promptly, then it’s probably time to walk – before you lose your shirt!
Many scammed people report that later they had a dodgy feeling about it. If it feels wrong it probably is wrong.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.