Cruel Or Indifferent To Suffering

What Scammers Do And Why It Is So Important For Scam Victims To Understand

•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

In understanding the dynamics of romance or other scams and their impact on victims, distinguishing between cruelty and indifference is crucial. Perpetrators of scams often operate from a place of indifference, lacking empathy rather than exhibiting personal animosity toward their victims. This realization is pivotal for victims, as it helps depersonalize the crime, reclaim their sense of agency, and access the support needed for recovery.

Overcoming indifference requires proactive steps, including cultivating empathy, expressing gratitude, educating oneself, and taking meaningful action to combat social injustices. By focusing on empathy, compassion, and understanding, society can create a safer and more supportive environment for all individuals affected by scams.

Recognizing the distinction between cruelty and indifference empowers victims to navigate their journey toward healing and ultimately fosters a more compassionate and inclusive society.

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Cruel vs. Indifferent: Understanding this is an important Key to Help Scam Victims Recover from Romance or Pig Butchering Scams

Do scammers engage in cruelty or is it indifferent to the suffering of their scam victims because they only care about the money scam victims can provide?

In the real world of scams, particularly romance scams or even crypto investment scams (pig butchering scams,) most scam victims believe that scammers delight in the harm that they do to their victims.

However, we argue that this makes the crimes very personal for the victims. And because of this personalization, this belief that the criminals took joy in hurting their victims, it makes it very hard to recover from these crimes, much less ultimately forgive the criminals.

We suggest that most criminals are not inherently cruel and evil, but that they are normal people doing evil acts through indifference to the suffering of others. While the scammers often take joy in their conquests, it is because of the achievement, not the pain they deliver. Most are not cruel, they are just indifferent to the suffering of their victims. Ironically, in our view, this makes these crimes themselves more evil and not less.

This is not just about semantics, this is about understanding the true nature of these crimes but also about our shared humanity. It is also about understanding something that normal people can easily do, and that in that understanding can make it easier for victims to recover.

Understanding the distinction between cruelty and indifference is very important for both victims and society at large because we see this same distinction everywhere we look, especially in politics and governance. These concepts shed light on the motivations behind fraudulent activities and offer insight into the psychological toll they take on those affected.

Defining Cruelty and Indifference

Cruelty, or cruel, in its essence involves the intentional infliction of harm or suffering upon others.

It is a deliberate act driven by malice, sadism, or a desire for control (control as its sole purpose, not as a means to an end.)

Most victims would say that in the context of scams, cruelty manifests in the calculated manipulation of victims’ emotions, trust, and vulnerabilities for personal gain. But is this really the case?

On the other hand, indifference refers to a lack of concern or empathy for the suffering of others. It is characterized by apathy, neglect, or a failure to acknowledge the humanity and dignity of those affected by one’s actions. In all scams, indifference is evident in the callous disregard for the emotional devastation that scams will cause and are experienced by victims who have been manipulated and deceived.


We recognize that there are a few of these criminals who do want to cause harm. This article is not about them.

Importance of Understanding the Distinction

For victims of romance or pig butchering scams, grasping the difference between cruelty and indifference can be empowering in their journey toward recovery.

Recognizing that they were NOT targeted out of personal animosity or hate but rather as pawns in a manipulative game helps victims depersonalize the crime. It allows them to shift their focus from self-blame and shame to understanding that they were exploited by individuals who lacked empathy and integrity.

Understanding this crucial distinction also facilitates the process of healing and recovery for victims. By realizing that they were not deliberately singled out for mistreatment due to who they are by someone who was inherently cruel but rather fell victim to the calculated actions of unscrupulous individuals who really cared nothing about them, victims can begin to reclaim their sense of agency and self-worth. In other words, as hard as it is to accept this, it was not personal, it was – at least for the scammers – just a business transaction.

That sounds terrible, and in fact is. Cruelty we can more easily understand than indifference.

For example, when we think of the NAZIs we see that their leadership hated the Jews – they were cruel in all capital letters. Yet most Germans of the time were simply indifferent. They went along with the leaders. The leaders were monsters and we can understand that and deal with them, but the indifference or normal people to the suffering of others is much harder to reconcile. But it is also this distinction that ultimately makes it possible to forgive.

We can forgive people’s indifference to suffering – even though it is by its very nature evil – because those who were indifferent did not intend to cause suffering, they just let it happen. The same is true with more scammers, fraudsters, and cybercriminals. Not all of them to be sure, but we believe more of them were just normal people doing something horrible and indifferent to the suffering of their victims.

In the New Testament of the Bible there is a quote “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” It is found in the New Testament, specifically in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 23, verse 34. It is a statement attributed to Jesus Christ while he was being crucified on the cross. According to the biblical narrative, Jesus uttered these words as an expression of forgiveness toward those who were responsible for his crucifixion, but it is also a recognition of the indifference of those both crucifying him and those who allowed it to happen. Of course, in this event not everyone was indifferent, a small few were truly cruel, such as the soldier who stabbed him with his spear.

The importance of that moment in history is that we can forgive indifference because it lacked the intention to do harm. Of course, many will argue that the intention to scam is the intention to do harm. However, the same argument can be made for a drunk driver who harmed someone while driving intoxicated.

Seeing Indifference All Around Us

Most humans are generally good people but any of us can and are indifferent to the suffering of others.

Just the act of identifying people as others begins that process!

Indifference to the suffering of others can manifest in various ways in everyday life in the United States and in other countries:

  • Homelessness: Despite the prevalence of homelessness in many cities across the country, there is often a sense of indifference towards the plight of homeless individuals. People may walk past individuals living on the streets without offering assistance or acknowledging their suffering. That is indifference.
  • Poverty: Many Americans live below the poverty line, struggling to afford basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare. Yet, there is often a lack of collective outrage or action to address systemic issues that perpetuate poverty and inequality. That is indifference.  However, if fact, government believes that poverty is actually good for the economy – that is cruel because it is intentional.
  • Healthcare Access: In a country where healthcare is not universally accessible, many individuals face barriers to receiving medical treatment and may suffer needlessly due to a lack of insurance or financial resources. Indifference towards the healthcare needs of others can contribute to disparities in health outcomes. That is indifference.
  • Environmental Pollution: Communities of color and low-income neighborhoods often bear the brunt of environmental pollution, including air and water contamination from industrial facilities and toxic waste sites. Despite the known health risks associated with environmental pollution, there is often indifference towards the suffering of affected communities. That is indifference.
  • Elder Abuse: Many elderly individuals experience abuse, neglect, and exploitation, often at the hands of caregivers or family members. Indifference towards the suffering of elderly individuals can result in their needs being overlooked or dismissed, leading to further harm and isolation. That is indifference.

These examples illustrate how indifference to the suffering of others can permeate various aspects of society, perpetuating injustices and inequalities. Recognizing and addressing indifference requires collective action, empathy, and a commitment to social justice and human rights.

When you think that it is someone else’s problem to solve you become indifferent.

This article is an example of someone doing something to counter indifference.

Do Scam Victims Become Indifferent?

Sadly, yes.

When scam victims refuse to report these crimes they are showing an indifference to the needs of other victims and society. This is not to blame them but to acknowledge how easy it is for indifference to infiltrate into the lives of anyone.

Forgiving Indifference

Forgiving anyone who harmed someone is never easy. But it is a necessary step in the final stages of the recovery journey.

Forgiving indifference is easier than forgiving cruelty for several reasons:

  • Intent: Indifference often stems from a lack of awareness or consideration or empathy rather than malicious intent. People who are indifferent may not always realize or care about the impact of their actions or may be unaware of the suffering they cause. In contrast, cruelty involves intentional harm or malicious behavior directed towards others, making it much harder to forgive.
  • Empathy and Understanding: It is easier to empathize with someone who is indifferent, as they may be seen as ignorant or unaware rather than intentionally malicious. Understanding that indifference often results from factors such as ignorance, apathy, false beliefs, cognitive biases, or a lack of empathy can make it easier to forgive, as it is a flaw in character rather than a deliberate choice to cause harm. And if we tell ourselves the truth, we have all been indifferent to others at times in our lives. An example of that is walking past a homeless person on the street without helping.
  • Personalization of Harm: Acts of cruelty are personal and directed towards specific individuals In contrast, indifference may be more generalized and less targeted, making it easier to detach oneself emotionally and forgive. Regardless of intent or not, it will still leave victims feeling anger and resentment.
  • Healing Process: Forgiving is a necessary step in the healing process, especially if the goal is to move past feelings of resentment and anger. Recognizing that indifference is often a result of individual limitations or circumstances can facilitate forgiveness and promote emotional healing.

While forgiving indifference may be easier than forgiving cruelty, both require the victim to have empathy, understanding, and a willingness to let go of negative emotions. Recognizing the distinction between the two can help scam victims navigate their feelings and ultimately find peace and closure.

What Does it Take to Overcome Indifference?

Overcoming indifference in our own lives requires a combination of self-awareness, empathy, and proactive engagement with the world around us.

Here are some steps individuals can take to combat indifference while acknowledging their personal limitations:

  • For Scam Victims: Overcoming indifference means committing to your recovery and not being a passive observer hoping that everything will work out ok. It means joining a real support and recovery program, getting professional trauma therapy, and being willing to share your story with others who need to hear it.
  • Cultivate Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. By actively practicing empathy, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of the experiences and struggles of those around them. This can involve listening attentively, putting oneself in another person’s shoes, and acknowledging the validity of their emotions and experiences.
  • Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the blessings and privileges in your life, while also recognizing the struggles and challenges faced by others. Take time each day to reflect on the things you are thankful for, whether it’s the support of loved ones, access to resources and opportunities, or moments of joy and beauty. Gratitude helps cultivate a positive mindset and maintains a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of humanity.
  • Express Appreciation: Show appreciation for the contributions and efforts of others, whether it’s a kind gesture, a helping hand, or a job well done. Expressing appreciation and gratitude builds stronger connections and builds a sense of community and belonging. Take the time to thank those who have made a difference in your life, and look for opportunities to uplift and support others in return.
  • Count Your Blessings: Take stock of the privileges and advantages you enjoy, and consider how you can use them to support and uplift others. Recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of their circumstances or background. By acknowledging your own blessings, you can develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion for those who may be less fortunate.
  • Pay It Forward: Pay forward the kindness and generosity you have received by helping others in need. Whether it’s through acts of service, charitable giving, or advocacy for social change, find ways to make a positive impact in the lives of others. By sharing your blessings with those who are struggling, you can create a ripple effect of kindness and compassion that extends far beyond yourself.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Cultivate mindfulness and presence in your daily life, allowing yourself to fully experience the richness and beauty of each moment. Take time to savor the simple pleasures and joys that surround you, whether it’s a warm cup of tea, a beautiful sunset, or a heartfelt conversation with a friend. By living with intention and awareness, you can deepen your sense of gratitude and appreciation for the precious gift of life.
  • Educate Yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about social issues, injustices, and inequalities that exist in your community and beyond. This may involve reading books, articles, and documentaries, attending workshops or seminars, and engaging in conversations with diverse perspectives. Knowledge is a powerful tool for combating indifference and fostering meaningful change.
  • Volunteer and Advocate: Get involved in causes and organizations that align with your values and interests. Volunteer your time and skills to support efforts to address social issues such as homelessness, poverty, environmental justice, or human rights. Advocate for policy changes and systemic reforms that promote values and compassion.
  • Practice Active Listening: Actively listen to the stories and experiences of others without judgment or interruption. Validate their feelings and perspectives, and demonstrate genuine interest and empathy. Engage in meaningful dialogue and seek to understand the root causes of social issues and injustices.
  • Take Meaningful Action: Identify concrete actions you can take to make a positive difference in the lives of others. This may involve volunteering at a local shelter, participating in community clean-up efforts, donating to charitable organizations, or advocating for policy changes. Even small acts of kindness and solidarity can have a ripple effect and contribute to larger social change.
  • Practice Self-Care: Recognize that while it’s important to care for others, you also need to prioritize your own well-being. Practice self-care strategies such as mindfulness, exercise, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones. Setting boundaries and managing your own emotional health allows you to be more effective in your efforts to combat indifference and support others.
  • Accept Limitations: Understand that you cannot save everyone or solve every problem single-handedly. It’s important to recognize your own limitations and focus your energy where it can have the greatest impact. Celebrate small victories, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks or obstacles along the way.

By taking proactive steps to overcome indifference in our own lives, we can contribute to a more compassionate, equitable, and interconnected world. Every individual has the power to make a difference, and by working together, we can create positive change and build a more just and inclusive society.


In conclusion, distinguishing between cruelty and indifference is essential for understanding the dynamics of romance or other scams and their impact on victims.

By recognizing that perpetrators of scams operate out of a lack of empathy rather than personal animosity toward their victims, individuals can begin to heal from the trauma of exploitation.

It is imperative for victims to understand this distinction to depersonalize the crime, reclaim their sense of agency, and access the support they need to navigate the journey toward recovery.

Ultimately, by focusing on empathy, compassion, and understanding, society can create a safer and more supportive environment for all individuals affected by scams.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

If you are looking for local trauma counselors please visit or join SCARS for our counseling/therapy benefit:

If you need to speak with someone now, you can dial 988 or find phone numbers for crisis hotlines all around the world here:

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at

SCARS Resources:

Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







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