Scam Victims Editing Their Stories To Promote Recovery From Scams

Scam Victims Recovery

Helping Scam Victims through their Post-Scam Transformation

•  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.
•  Based on work by Lori Gottlieb

About This Article

Victims of scams often find themselves trapped in the narratives of their past experiences, bound by feelings of betrayal and vulnerability. However, through the process of editing their stories, they can embark on a journey of recovery and transformation.

By acknowledging external factors that contributed to their victimization and reframing their narratives to include themes of resilience and growth, scam victims reclaim agency over their lives. Radical honesty serves as a cornerstone of this process, enabling victims to confront their experiences without judgment and fostering genuine connections within support networks.

Through introspection and vulnerability, victims emerge stronger and more empowered, rewriting their stories to embrace freedom and change. In this journey of personal and collective transformation, compassionate support plays a crucial role in challenging limiting narratives and unlocking the potential for growth.

SCARS Scam Victim Support & Recovery Program

The Power of Editing: How Our Stories Shape Our Lives – How Scam Victims Need To Edit Their Stories To Recover

Scam victims often need a type of intervention that offers a potent tool often overlooked: the art of narrative editing – in other cords editing your own story.

Scam Victim Stories

In the case of scams, victims often find themselves ensnared in the trap of their past experiences. The narratives they tell about their victimization serve as constant reminders of betrayal, loss, and vulnerability. Yet, these stories, while valid, can also function as shackles, binding individuals to a stagnant existence defined by victimhood.

Scam victims frequently revisit their narratives, replaying the events that led to their exploitation. These stories, though cathartic in their retelling, inadvertently perpetuate feelings of powerlessness and despair, and just as importantly can be spread to other scam victims who hear them. They serve as echoes of a traumatic past, reverberating through every aspect of the victim’s life.

This is not to say that every scam survivor does this. Those like Debby Montgomery Johnson, Sharon Armstrong, Elina Juusola, and Vianey Gonzalez, have moved past the limitations in their earlier versions of their stories and have turned them into profoundly motivating narratives.

Breaking Free

To break free from this cycle of victimization, scam victims must engage in the transformative process of narrative editing – something that is a part of the SCARS support process. This entails each scam survivor critically examining their stories, identifying entrenched thought patterns, and challenging the narratives that no longer serve them, along with coaching from their peers who have been through it.

By editing their stories, scam victims can reclaim agency over their lives and shape their futures with intentionality and purpose. They can redefine themselves not as passive victims but as empowered survivors capable of transcending their past experiences.

Narrative editing empowers scam victims to rewrite their stories from a place of strength and resilience. It allows them to cultivate a narrative of self-empowerment, resilience, and growth—one that acknowledges the pain of the past but refuses to be defined by it.

Through this process, scam victims can let go of the narratives that anchor them to their past and instead embrace a future filled with possibility and potential. They can envision new chapters in their lives, ones characterized by healing, growth, and transformation.

The SCARS Process

Breaking free from past harmful narratives is a transformative process that requires self-reflection, courage, and persistence.

By identifying and challenging the negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to feelings of victimization, individuals can begin to reframe their experiences in a more empowering light.

With guidance and support, they can create new narratives that emphasize agency, resilience, and hope for the future. Through visualization techniques, positive affirmations, and the cultivation of a supportive network (which SCARS provides for those who can use it,) survivors can gradually reclaim their sense of self-worth and autonomy. While the journey may be challenging, every step forward represents progress towards healing and personal growth.

Here are the process actions:

  • Self-Reflection: Encourage scam victims to engage in introspection and examine the narratives they hold about their victimization.
  • Identifying Harmful Patterns: Help victims recognize recurring thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to feelings of powerlessness and despair.
  • Challenging Assumptions: Encourage victims to question the validity of their narratives and challenge assumptions that reinforce a sense of victimhood.
  • Cognitive Restructuring: Assist victims in reframing their experiences in a more empowering light, focusing on strengths, resilience, and opportunities for growth.
  • Creating New Narratives: Guide victims in crafting alternative narratives that emphasize agency, resilience, and hope for the future.
  • Visualization Techniques: Encourage victims to visualize themselves as protagonists in their own stories, capable of overcoming obstacles and achieving their goals.
  • Positive Affirmations: Introduce affirmations and positive self-talk to counteract negative narratives and reinforce feelings of self-worth and empowerment.
  • Seeking Support: Encourage victims to seek support from trusted individuals, such as friends, family members, or mental health professionals, who can provide validation, encouragement, and guidance throughout the narrative editing process.
  • Practice and Persistence: Emphasize the importance of consistency and perseverance in challenging old narratives and embracing new ones. Like any skill, narrative editing requires practice and repetition to become ingrained.
  • Celebrating Progress: Celebrate victories, no matter how small, and acknowledge the courage and resilience demonstrated by victims as they work to break free from harmful narratives.

The Journey

In the journey toward recovery, the victim’s story (narrative) editing serves as a powerful tool for liberation. It enables scam victims to transcend the confines of their past and step boldly into the future they deserve. By reshaping their stories, they can reclaim ownership of their lives and chart a course toward a brighter tomorrow.

However, it also comes with a dark side too. These are the reinstatement of cognitive biases and other false beliefs that can return victims to vulnerability.

These include:

  • It will Never Happen Again: This is the Availability Heuristic Biasthe tendency to judge the likelihood of something based on how easily examples come to mind. For example, we might think that plane crashes are more common than they actually are because we are more likely to remember news stories about plane crashes than news stories about other types of accidents. The most common of the post-scam cognitive biases is that once scammed victims are immune from being scammed again.
  • Trauma Bias: The victim is just fine, they had some negative feelings but they do not need any help. They reject the notion that they need trauma counseling or trauma-informed care or support.
  • Victim Bias: Only victims can understand how victims feel. This causes victims to gravitate to support that is run by other victims without any understanding of the psychological forces involved in the crimes themselves or the real process of recovery.
  • Retrospective Framing: Retrospective framing is a cognitive bias that occurs when we interpret past events in a way that is consistent with our current beliefs or attitudes. This can lead to us misremembering or reinterpreting past events in a way that supports our current worldview. Also, see the Framing Effect.
  • Self-Serving Bias: This is the tendency to take credit for our successes and deny responsibility for our failures. For example, we might think that we ended the scam because we saw the red flags when the scammer actually ended it.
  • Actor-Observer Bias: This bias significantly impacts interpersonal dynamics, especially in scams and for scam victims. Victims may blame themselves or externalize responsibility, hindering their recovery. Overcoming this bias involves acknowledging external factors and fostering empathy towards oneself and others.
  • See more Cognitive Biases in our catalog: Cognitive Biases Catalog 2024 (

Freedom and Change

Freedom and change emerge as recurring themes, intertwined in a dance of liberation and resistance.

We perceive ourselves as prisoners of circumstance, confined by self-imposed scripts. Yet, liberation lies in rewriting the narrative—acknowledging agency and embracing transformation.

Freedom and change are not just abstract concepts; they are deeply intertwined in the narratives of scam victims post-scam. Initially, victims may perceive themselves as prisoners of circumstance, trapped by the consequences of their scam experience. The narrative they tell themselves might reinforce feelings of helplessness and victimhood, leading to a sense of confinement within their own story.

However, the path to liberation begins with recognizing the power of storytelling. By acknowledging their agency and embracing the possibility of change, scam victims can rewrite their narratives. This process involves editing or revising their stories to include not only the external factors that led to their victimization but also their capacity for resilience and growth.

For example, a scam victim might initially blame themselves for falling for the scam, viewing their actions as a sign of foolishness, gullibility, naivety, or vulnerability. However, through introspection and self-reflection, they can come to understand the sophisticated tactics employed by scammers and the broader societal factors that contributed to their vulnerability. By reframing their story to include these external influences, they can reclaim their agency and empower themselves to avoid similar situations in the future.

Similarly, the theme of change emerges as scam victims navigate their recovery journey. Initially resistant to change, they may cling to familiar narratives that reinforce feelings of victimhood. However, as they confront their experiences and embrace the possibility of growth, they can rewrite their stories to include themes of resilience, courage, and self-discovery.

In essence, the process of editing or revising their stories allows scam victims to break free from the confines of their past experiences and embrace the possibility of a new narrative—one defined by empowerment, resilience, and agency. It is through this process that they can truly liberate themselves from the shackles of their scam experience and emerge stronger and more resilient than before.

Radical Honesty – A Cornerstone of the SCARS Process

To edit our stories is to embrace radical honesty—to confront narratives that no longer serve us and reimagine our lives with courage. It requires relinquishing familiar scripts and embracing vulnerability. In doing so, we reclaim authorship, charting new trajectories of growth.

Radical honesty, characterized by unfiltered truthfulness and transparency, holds significant value for victims recovering from scams. In the aftermath of a scam, individuals often grapple with feelings of shame, self-blame, and isolation. Radical honesty serves as a powerful antidote to these negative emotions, fostering a sense of authenticity, connection, and empowerment.

However, victims who are in denial or lost themselves to anger may perceive this as an attack. But in these cases, they will require more professional support to recover, so those who can be reached need to hear the truth regardless.

First and foremost, radical honesty encourages victims to confront and acknowledge their experiences without judgment or self-censorship. By openly discussing their encounters with scams, victims can shed the burden of secrecy and shame, realizing that they are not alone in their struggles. This unfiltered sharing of experiences creates a supportive environment where victims can find validation, empathy, and understanding from others who have walked similar paths.

Moreover, radical honesty enables victims to reclaim their narrative and assert their truth in the face of societal stigma and victim-blaming attitudes. By speaking candidly about their experiences, victims challenge misconceptions surrounding scam victimization and highlight the complexities involved. This transparency not only promotes awareness and education but also empowers victims to advocate for themselves and others within their communities.

Furthermore, radical honesty fosters genuine connections and builds trust within support networks. When individuals share their stories authentically, it cultivates a sense of vulnerability and mutual respect among peers. This openness paves the way for meaningful conversations, collaborative problem-solving, and collective healing. Victims find solace in knowing that they can express themselves freely and authentically without fear of judgment or rejection.

Additionally, radical honesty catalyzes personal growth and resilience. By embracing vulnerability and confronting difficult truths, victims embark on a journey of self-discovery and self-empowerment. They develop a deeper understanding of their strengths, limitations, and values, laying the foundation for meaningful change and transformation. Through radical honesty, victims cultivate resilience, compassion, and acceptance, emerging from their experiences with newfound clarity and purpose.

Radical honesty offers a transformative pathway for victims recovering from scams, enabling them to reclaim their voices, connect with others, and embark on a journey of healing and empowerment. By embracing authenticity and transparency, victims not only break free from the shackles of shame and isolation but also cultivate resilience, compassion, and hope for the future. Radical honesty is not just a tool for recovery—it is a powerful expression of courage, strength, and resilience in the face of adversity.


Editing our stories requires compassionate support—therapists, friends, and mentors who challenge assumptions and broaden perspectives. In confronting limiting narratives, we unlock the potential for personal and collective transformation.

As we navigate human experience, we are authors of our own stories. With each edit, we rewrite life’s script, embracing the freedom to chart new courses. In the crucible of uncertainty, we discover the power of narrative—to illuminate, inspire, and transform.

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:

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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.


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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