(Last Updated On: October 10, 2023)

Labeling Theory & What It Means For Victims Of Scams

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

The Double Victimization of Scam Victims: How Labeling Theory Can Explain the Stigma and Discrimination They Face

Labeling Theory, specifically labels can have an impact on anyone, but especially for scam victims/survivors. How they see themselves directly affects their chances for recovery and a better future!

Introduction to Labeling Theory

Labeling theory in criminology is a perspective that focuses on the ways in which social labels, such as “criminal” or “delinquent,” or “victim,” can influence an individual’s behavior.

The theory suggests that once a person is labeled as a criminal (for example,) they are more likely to engage in subsequent criminal activity. This is because the label can lead to stigmatization, discrimination, and other negative consequences, which can make it difficult for the person to reintegrate into society. It can also modify or affect a person’s core beliefs or perception of identity of or about themself.

There are a number of ways in which labels can be applied to individuals.

  • For example, a person may be labeled as a criminal if they are arrested or convicted of a crime.
  • They may also be labeled as a delinquent if they engage in minor criminal activity or other forms of deviant behavior.
  • Labels can also be applied based on a person’s race, ethnicity, social class, or other group affiliation.

Once a person is labeled, the label can have a number of negative effects on their life. For example, they may be more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, or to be denied employment or housing opportunities. They may also be stigmatized by their peers and family members. These negative consequences can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, and anger, which can increase the likelihood that the person will engage in subsequent criminal activity.

Labeling theory has been criticized for a number of reasons. One criticism is that it does not adequately explain why some people who are labeled as criminals do not engage in subsequent criminal activity. Another criticism is that the theory does not take into account the role of individual choice in criminal behavior.

Despite its limitations, labeling theory has had a significant impact on criminology. It has helped to raise awareness of the negative consequences of labeling and the importance of reintegration programs for people who have been convicted of crimes.

Effect of Labels on People in General

The effect of labels on people can be significant. Labels can lead to stigmatization, discrimination, and other negative consequences. This can make it difficult for people to reintegrate into society and can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, and anger. These negative consequences can increase the likelihood that people will engage in subsequent criminal activity.

Here are some specific examples of the effects of labels on people:

  • A person who is labeled as a criminal may have difficulty finding a job or housing.
  • A person who is labeled as a delinquent may be suspended or expelled from school.
  • A person who is labeled as mentally ill may be denied access to certain services or opportunities.
  • A person who is labeled as a member of a minority group may be discriminated against in the workplace, the housing market, and other areas of life.

It is important to remember that labels are not identities. People are more than the labels that they are given. We should treat everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of the labels that they may have been given.

Labeling Theory Applied to Scam Victims

The concept of labeling theory can also be applied to scam victims.

When someone is scammed, they may be labeled as a victim by themselves, their family and friends, and even society as a whole. This label can have a number of profound effects on the victim, including:

  • Reporting crimes: Scam victims may be less likely to report their crimes to the police because they fear being judged or blamed. They may also feel ashamed or embarrassed about what happened to them. Reporting is not that hard – go to reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn more.
  • Seeking support and counseling: Scam victims may be less likely to seek support and counseling because they fear being labeled as weak or gullible (which is not true.) They may also feel that there is no one who can help them or understand what they are going through (also not true.)
  • Acknowledging trauma or grief: Scam victims may be less likely to acknowledge the trauma or grief they are experiencing because they feel like they should just “get over it” or “move on.” They may also feel like their experience is not as valid as the experiences of other victims, such as victims of violent crime.
  • Desire for recovery: Scam victims may lose hope and give up on recovery because they feel like they will never be able to overcome the experience – they accept the label of victim. They may also feel like they are not worthy of recovery.

It is important to remember that scam victims are not to blame for what happened to them!

They are the victims of a crime. It is also important to remember that there is no shame in being a victim. Scam victims deserve support, compassion, and understanding.

When Victims Adopt a Victim Mentality

When scam victims accept that they are a victim and begin to adopt a victim mentality, it can have a number of negative consequences.

  • They may feel helpless and hopeless. This is because they may feel like they have no control over what happened to them and that they are powerless to prevent it from happening again.
  • They may feel angry and resentful. This is because they may feel like they have been wronged and that they deserve justice.
  • They may feel ashamed and embarrassed. This is because they may feel like they are stupid or gullible for falling for a scam.
  • They may isolate themselves from others. This is because they may feel like no one understands what they are going through or that they will be judged or blamed.
  • They may develop mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A victim mentality makes it difficult for scam victims to recover from their scam experience. This is because they may feel like they are not worthy of recovery or that they are incapable of overcoming what happened to them. Or they simply do not want to deal with it.

If you are a scam victim, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are people who care about you and want to help. It is also important to remember that you are not to blame for what happened to you. You are the victim of a crime.

Tips for overcoming a victim mentality:

  • Accept that you are a victim. This does not mean that you have to wallow in self-pity or give up on yourself. It simply means acknowledging that what happened to you was wrong and that you were not to blame. When you can do that you become a survivor!
  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions. It is okay to feel angry, sad, scared, or ashamed. Don’t try to bottle up your emotions or pretend that you are okay when you’re not.
  • Talk to someone you trust. This could be a friend, family member, counselor or therapist, or support group. Talking about your experience can help you to process it and to start to heal.
  • Focus on your strengths. Make a list of all the things that you are good at and that you are proud of. This can help you to build your self-esteem and to remind yourself that you are a valuable person. You are worthy! Axios!
  • Set goals for yourself. What do you want to achieve in life? Once you know what you want to achieve, you can start to develop a new plan to make it happen.

It is important to remember that recovery from a scam takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and don’t give up. There is hope for the future.

Overcoming the Label

Here are some tips for helping scam victims overcome the negative effects of labeling:

  • Be supportive and understanding: Let scam victims know that it is not their fault and that they are not alone. Listen to their story without judgment.
  • Encourage them to report the crime: Let scam victims know that it is important to report the crime so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice, but even more important is that it helps them to proclaim their innocence and retake control back from the criminals.
  • Help them find support and counseling: There are a number of resources available to scam victims, including support groups, counseling services, and financial assistance programs. Find support at support.AgainstScams.org and counseling or therapy at counseling.AgainstScams.org
  • Encourage them to acknowledge their trauma or grief: Let scam victims know that it is okay to feel sad, angry, or scared. Their emotions are valid! Encourage them to talk about their experience and to seek support from others.
  • Help them maintain hope: Let scam victims know that they are SURVIVORS and can recover from their experience. Help them set goals and develop a plan for moving forward.

If you are a scam victim, please know that you are not alone. There are people who care about you and want to help. Please reach out for support – see our resources below.

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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.

Opinions

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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