Indoctrination Of Scam Victims By Their Scammers? Yes!

Indoctrination is often Poorly Understood, but Criminals use it extensively in conducting their Scams

Psychology of Scams

•  Vianey Gonzalez B.Sc(Psych) – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

Scam victims often undergo a form of psychological indoctrination, a process of systematic manipulation aimed at shaping their beliefs and behaviors, though it’s not identical to traditional indoctrination methods. This manipulation occurs through various tactics such as control of information, social influence, emotional manipulation, and reinforcement, often within the context of a romantic relationship or financial scheme.

Scammers exploit victims’ vulnerabilities, instilling false beliefs like urgency, trust, loyalty, and more to perpetuate their scams. Gaslighting and negative indoctrination tactics further entrench victims, making them resistant to questioning the legitimacy of the situation.

While indoctrination in scams lacks the formal institutional structure of traditional indoctrination, its effects can be similarly profound, resulting in lasting emotional and psychological trauma for victims. Recognizing the signs of indoctrination is essential for safeguarding against manipulation and protecting individual autonomy, agency, and well-being.

Indoctrination Of Scam Victims By Their Scammers? Yes! - 2024

Are Scam Victims Indoctrinated? This is an Interesting Question. Generally speaking, the Answer is Yes but with Conditions!

Being Indoctrinated (Indoctrination) is a process of manipulation, and scam victims are absolutely manipulated.

However, indoctrination is more complex because it happens in many different ways and is not a specific form of manipulation itself.

What is Indoctrination?

An indoctrinated idea or belief differs from simply believing something a person is told in several key ways.

Indoctrination involves a more systematic and deliberate process of shaping beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, often within a specific context such as a religious, political, an ideological group, or as part of a deception scam or fraud.

Here’s how indoctrination differs from mere belief:

  1. Systematic Conditioning: Indoctrination typically involves a systematic and structured process of conditioning individuals to accept and internalize specific beliefs or ideologies. This process may include formal education, socialization, propaganda, or persuasive techniques aimed at reinforcing certain ideas and suppressing dissenting views. In the case of scams, we call this grooming, manipulation, and control.
  2. Social Influence and Group Dynamics: Indoctrination often occurs within the context of social groups or communities that exert influence over individuals’ beliefs and behaviors. Group dynamics, peer pressure, and conformity play significant roles in reinforcing indoctrinated beliefs and discouraging critical thinking or dissent within the group. Of course in the case of scams, the group size is usually 2 but it still works just the same.
  3. Reinforcement and Repetition: Indoctrination relies on reinforcement and repetition to solidify and internalize indoctrinated beliefs. Messages, slogans, rituals, and symbols are often repeated and reinforced to create a sense of identity, loyalty, and commitment to the group or ideology. Love bombing and amygdala hijacking serve that purpose in the scam of romance scams. In the case of investment scams, it is the repeated focus on profit and growth income.
  4. Control of Information: Indoctrination often involves controlling the flow of information and limiting individuals’ exposure to alternative viewpoints or dissenting opinions. This helps to create an echo chamber effect, reinforcing indoctrinated beliefs and preventing critical evaluation or questioning of the ideology. By gaslighting victims, the scammers become the principal source of information by cutting off family and friends.
  5. Emotional Manipulation: Indoctrination often involves emotional manipulation tactics to build and maintain attachment, loyalty, and commitment to the indoctrinated beliefs. This can include appeals to fear, guilt, pride, or belongingness to manipulate individuals’ emotions and reinforce their adherence to the ideology.
  6. Resistance to Change: Indoctrinated beliefs are often resistant to change or critical evaluation, even in the face of contradictory evidence or arguments. Indoctrination fosters a closed-minded attitude that dismisses dissenting views and reinforces the perceived infallibility or superiority of the indoctrinated ideology. Once the crime is discovered Cognitive Dissonance kicks in to both confuse the victim but also to create resistance to change in their beliefs.

In contrast, simply believing something a person is told may involve accepting information or ideas without undergoing the systematic conditioning, social influence, or emotional manipulation characteristic of indoctrination. While beliefs acquired through mere acceptance of information can still be influenced by factors such as trust, authority, cognitive biases, and persuasion, they may not be as deeply ingrained or resistant to change as indoctrinated beliefs.

Ultimately, what distinguishes indoctrination from mere belief is the deliberate and systematic process of shaping and reinforcing specific beliefs or accepted ideas within a controlled environment, often with the aim of developing loyalty, conformity, and obedience to a particular group or agenda.

How is Being Indoctrinated Different than Brainwashing?

Indoctrination and brainwashing are related concepts that involve the manipulation of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, but there are some key differences between the two:

  1. Nature of Influence:
    • Indoctrination: Indoctrination typically involves the systematic shaping of beliefs, values, and attitudes through education, socialization, or persuasion. It often occurs within a specific context, such as a religious, political, or ideological group, and may involve the reinforcement of certain ideas or principles over time. However, it can also happen in the intense relationship between a victim and the criminals controlling them.
    • Brainwashing: Brainwashing, on the other hand, involves a more intense and coercive form of influence aimed at changing an individual’s beliefs, behaviors, and identity. It often employs manipulative and psychologically abusive tactics to break down a person’s resistance and control their thoughts and actions, often against their will. Brainwashing also almost always involves direct control of the victim physically, that is not the case during a scam, but it can happen if the victims travel to the country where the scammers live.
  2. Intensity and Coercion:
    • Indoctrination: Indoctrination can involve persuasive techniques, social pressure, and cultural norms to influence individuals’ beliefs and behaviors, as well as triggering cognitive biases. While it may involve some degree of coercion or conformity, indoctrination typically does not rely on extreme forms of manipulation or control.
    • Brainwashing: Brainwashing involves more intense forms of coercion, manipulation, and psychological abuse to exert control over individuals’ thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It may involve tactics such as isolation, sleep deprivation, humiliation, and manipulation of reality to break down a person’s resistance and impose new beliefs or ideologies.
  3. Voluntary vs. Involuntary:
    • Indoctrination: Indoctrination can occur voluntarily, with individuals willingly accepting and internalizing the beliefs or ideologies presented to them. While social pressure or group dynamics may influence individuals’ decisions to conform, indoctrination typically involves some level of voluntary participation. However, that does not mean that scam victims willingly engage in their own indoctrination, it just means that it plays to their existing cognitive biases and pre-existing core beliefs.
    • Brainwashing: Brainwashing often occurs involuntarily, with individuals being subjected to coercive and manipulative tactics against their will. Brainwashing aims to override individuals’ autonomy and free will, often resulting in them adopting beliefs or behaviors that are contrary to their own values or interests.
  4. Reversibility:
    • Indoctrination: Indoctrination is typically reversible, particularly if individuals are exposed to alternative perspectives or information that challenges the beliefs or ideologies they have been indoctrinated with. While indoctrination can be deeply ingrained and resistant to change, individuals may still have the capacity to critically evaluate and reassess their beliefs over time. One key is to disengage emotional connections to the indoctrinated beliefs so the logical mind can root out these false or implanted beliefs.
    • Brainwashing: Brainwashing can be more difficult to reverse, as it often involves profound psychological manipulation and control that can have lasting effects on an individual’s beliefs, identity, and sense of self. Recovering from brainwashing may require intensive therapy, support, and deprogramming efforts to help individuals reclaim their autonomy and cognitive independence. Many scam victims voice the belief that they have been brainwashed, but this is incorrect. Regardless, the levels of manipulation that scam victims experience are certainly significant and lasting.

While both indoctrination and brainwashing involve the manipulation of beliefs and behaviors, they differ in terms of intensity, coercion, voluntariness, and reversibility – but the key test is physical access. Indoctrination typically involves the gradual shaping of beliefs within a specific context, while brainwashing involves more extreme forms of manipulation and control aimed at forcibly imposing new beliefs or ideologies on individuals.

Do Scammers Indoctrinate Victims – Yes, Absolutely!

Scammers engage in various forms of negative indoctrination and gaslighting to manipulate and control their victims. These tactics are aimed at undermining the victim’s confidence, perception of reality, and ability to resist the scammer’s influence.

Here are some examples:

  • Denial and Minimization: Scammers gaslight victims by denying or minimizing their concerns, doubts, or suspicions about the legitimacy of the relationship. They may dismiss evidence of fraudulent activity or downplay the victim’s legitimate questions or objections, making them doubt their own judgment and intuition.
  • Blame-Shifting: Scammers often shift blame onto the victim, making them feel responsible for any negative consequences or suspicions that arise during the relationship. They may accuse the victim of being paranoid, overly cautious, or unwilling to trust, deflecting attention away from their own deceptive actions and manipulating the victim into questioning their own motives or behavior.
  • False Reassurance: Scammers also gaslight victims by offering false reassurances or promises to alleviate their concerns or suspicions. They use soothing language, flattery, or false empathy to manipulate the victim’s emotions and make them feel more comfortable or complacent, despite mounting evidence of a controlling relationship and deception.
  • Rewriting History: Scammers gaslight victims by rewriting history or altering their narrative to suit their agenda. The good ones often distort or fabricate past interactions, conversations, or events to manipulate the victim’s memory and perception of reality, making it harder for them to trust their own recollections or judgments.
  • Invalidation and Dismissal: Scammers try to invalidate or dismiss the victim’s feelings, experiences, or concerns as irrelevant or unwarranted. They may trivialize the scam victim’s emotions, gaslighting them into believing that their suspicions or doubts are irrational or unfounded and manipulating them into doubting their own perceptions of reality.
  • Threats and Intimidation: Scammers can resort to threats or intimidation to gaslight victims into compliance or silence. They may use fear tactics, such as threats of legal action, financial ruin, or harm to the victim or their loved ones, to coerce the victim into continuing the payments or refraining from seeking help or exposing the scammer. This is one of the reasons why it is best to never confront the scammers when you suspect the crime, just cut them off and block them.
  • Isolation and Alienation: Scammers frequently gaslight victims to isolate them from external sources of support or validation. They may discourage the victim from seeking advice or assistance from friends, family, or authorities, gaslighting them into believing that they are the only ones who can be trusted and that seeking help would be betraying the scammer or jeopardizing their relationship.

Gaslighting and negative indoctrination are some of the powerful tools used by these criminals to manipulate and control their victims. By undermining the scam victim’s confidence, perception of reality, and ability to resist, scammers are able to exert greater influence and exploit them more effectively for financial gain or other criminal purposes. Recognizing the signs of gaslighting and negative indoctrination is essential for protecting oneself from falling victim to scams and maintaining autonomy and self-confidence.

Subtle Social or Political Indoctrination

Scammers may also attempt to indoctrinate their victims into believing and internalizing larger social or political ideas or beliefs as part of their manipulation tactics. While the primary goal of these scams may still be financial gain, scammers may exploit broader ideologies or narratives to deceive and manipulate individuals.

However, this tends to happen in romance scams and not so much in other forms of trust-based relationship scams, such a crypto investment scams.

Here are some examples of how this might occur:

  • Political Affiliation or Ideology: Scammers may prey on individuals’ political affiliations or beliefs, particularly during times of heightened political polarization or unrest. Scammers are human and cannot help but inject some of their own beliefs into their conversations in an attempt to indoctrinate victims into supporting their cause or donating money to further their agenda.
  • Conspiracy Theories: Scammers sometimes exploit individuals’ susceptibility to conspiracy theories by indoctrinating them into believing in false or exaggerated narratives about government corruption, secret societies, or other conspiracies. They may use fear-mongering tactics to convince victims to develop a closer bond that allows them to more fully control the victim.
  • Social Justice Causes: Scammers may masquerade as advocates for social justice causes, such as racial equality, gender rights, or environmental conservation, to manipulate individuals into supporting their fraudulent schemes. They may appeal to victims’ sense of empathy, compassion, or moral duty to persuade them to donate money or provide support under the guise of advancing social progress. After all, the choice to impersonate a United Nations official is actually this in disguise.
  • Religious or Spiritual Beliefs: Scammers may exploit individuals’ religious or spiritual beliefs by posing as devout religious believers both as a grooming tactic but also later on as a control mechanism. Sometimes they will pretend to be leaders or representatives of religious organizations or spiritual movements. They may indoctrinate victims into believing that their actions are sanctioned by a higher power or that they are participating in a divine mission, manipulating their faith and trust to obtain the victim’s money.
  • Nationalism or Patriotism: Scammers often appeal to individuals’ sense of nationalism or patriotism by impersonating soldiers and military personnel. They attempt to indoctrinate the scam victims into believing that their actions are in service of their country, service, or community. They may use patriotic rhetoric or symbols to evoke feelings of pride and loyalty, exploiting victims’ sense of duty or patriotism to solicit money for things related to their service.

In these cases, scammers manipulate individuals’ beliefs, values, and identities to advance their own agendas and deceive them into providing money, personal information, or other resources. By exploiting broader social or political ideologies, scammers seek to leverage existing cognitive biases, fears, or allegiances to manipulate their victims more effectively.

The Kinds of Ideas, Beliefs, Views, or Thoughts Scammers try to Indoctrinate their Scam Victims Into Believing

Scammers attempt to indoctrinate their scam victims into believing and internalizing a variety of ideas, beliefs, views, or thoughts that serve the scammer’s agenda. These beliefs are often designed to manipulate the victim into providing money, personal information, or other resources.

Here are some examples:

  • False Sense of Urgency: Scammers may indoctrinate victims into believing that there is an urgent or time-sensitive need for their assistance or financial support. This could involve fabricating emergencies, such as medical expenses, legal troubles, or imminent threats, to pressure the victim into acting quickly without questioning the legitimacy of the situation. Yes, this is a form of indoctrination if done repeatedly.
  • Financial Opportunities: Scammers can negatively indoctrinate victims into believing that they have access to lucrative financial opportunities, such as high-yield investments, business ventures, or lottery winnings. They may exploit the victim’s desire for financial security or wealth to persuade them to invest money or provide personal financial information.
  • Unconditional Love or Affection: In romance scams, scammers may indoctrinate victims into believing that they have found true love or a soulmate. They use tactics like love bombing to shower the victim with affection, compliments, and promises of a future together. The victim may be manipulated into believing that the scammer’s love is genuine and that they are destined to be together, despite never having met in person.
  • Fear and Intimidation: Scammers may indoctrinate victims into believing that they are at risk of harm or consequences if they do not comply with the scammer’s demands. This could involve threats of violence, legal action, or exposure of embarrassing or compromising information. The victim may be manipulated into acting out of fear for their safety or reputation.
  • Trust and Loyalty: Scammers may indoctrinate victims into believing that they can trust the scammer implicitly and that their loyalty will be rewarded. They may exploit the victim’s desire for companionship, friendship, or validation to establish a sense of trust and dependency. The victim may be manipulated into providing personal information, money, or other resources under the guise of helping the scammer or strengthening their bond.
  • Charitable Causes: Scammers may indoctrinate victims into believing that they are supporting a charitable cause or helping those in need. They may fabricate stories of hardship, suffering, or humanitarian crises to evoke sympathy and compassion from the victim. The victim may be manipulated into donating money or providing assistance under the false pretense of helping those less fortunate.

Overall, scammers use psychological manipulation and deception to indoctrinate victims into believing and internalizing false narratives or beliefs that serve the scammer’s interests. By exploiting the victim’s emotions, vulnerabilities, and desires, scammers are able to manipulate them into providing money, personal information, or other resources without questioning the legitimacy of the situation. Recognizing the signs of manipulation and staying vigilant against potential scams is essential for protecting oneself from falling victim to indoctrination.

Indoctrination Review

Psychological indoctrination refers to the process of systematically influencing and shaping an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors through psychological manipulation and conditioning.

It involves the deliberate use of persuasive techniques to instill specific ideologies, beliefs, or behaviors in individuals, often for the benefit of the indoctrinator or a particular group or agenda. In this case, the criminals.

Psychological indoctrination can take various forms and is often employed by organizations, cults, authoritarian regimes, or extremist groups to control and influence their members.

Some key characteristics of psychological indoctrination include:

  1. Control of Information: Indoctrinators control the information that individuals have access to, limiting exposure to alternative viewpoints or dissenting opinions. This can create an echo chamber effect, reinforcing the indoctrinator’s narrative and preventing critical thinking.
  2. Manipulative Communication: Indoctrinators use persuasive and manipulative communication techniques to influence individuals’ thoughts and behaviors. This may involve tactics such as repetition, emotional manipulation, and the use of loaded language to evoke specific emotional responses (amygdala hijacks.)
  3. Isolation and Dependency: Indoctrinators often isolate individuals from external influences, such as friends, family, or other sources of support. This isolation creates a sense of dependency on the indoctrinator or the group, making it harder for individuals to question or challenge the indoctrination.
  4. Reward and Punishment: Indoctrinators use a system of reward and punishment to reinforce desired behaviors and discourage dissent. Individuals may be rewarded for conforming to the indoctrinator’s beliefs or punished for questioning or challenging them. This again is a form of Amygdala Hijack.
  5. Normalization of Beliefs: Indoctrinators work to normalize their beliefs and ideologies within the group, portraying them as unquestionable truths or moral imperatives. Dissent or skepticism is often stigmatized and discouraged, further reinforcing conformity.
  6. Manipulation of Identity: Indoctrinators may manipulate individuals’ sense of identity, self-worth, and belonging to the group. This can involve indoctrinating individuals with a new identity or worldview that aligns with the indoctrinator’s agenda.
  7. Emotional Manipulation: Indoctrinators exploit individuals’ emotions, fears, and insecurities to gain control over them. Emotional manipulation tactics such as guilt-tripping, fear-mongering, or love bombing may be used to manipulate individuals’ behavior and beliefs.

Psychological indoctrination is a powerful tool for exerting control over individuals and shaping their beliefs and behaviors according to the indoctrinator’s agenda. It can have profound and long-lasting effects on individuals’ psychological well-being, autonomy, and ability to think critically.

Additionally, Psychological Indoctrination can have lasting effects on a person’s personality and result in significant cognitive dissonance when attempts are made to change which can result in trauma. The discovery of being indoctrinated easily leads to betrayal trauma.

Knowing that it was done enables victims to be alert to and counter any indoctrination. Recognizing the signs of psychological indoctrination is required to safeguard against its future influence and protect individual freedom of thought and autonomy.

Important Information for New Scam Victims

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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