Scam Victims And The 9 Circles Of Hell After The Scam Ends

The Challenges that Scam Victims Face after They End their Scam/Fraud

Scam Victim Recovery Psychology

•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
Updated 2024 – Originally published 2023 on

About This Article

“Scam Victims Welcome To Hell: An Insight into Recovery” delves into the harrowing journey of scam victims, likening their post-scam experience to Dante’s Circles of Hell. Drawing parallels between Dante’s Inferno and the psychological turmoil of scam recovery, the narrative navigates through each circle, mirroring the victim’s emotional descent.

From the initial shock of Limbo to the burning anger of Violence, victims grapple with denial, greed, and treachery. Each circle reflects a facet of victim psychology, from the insatiable need for answers in Gluttony to the treacherous allure of returning to scam tactics in Fraud.

Ultimately, the narrative underscores the importance of acceptance, truth, and seeking support on the arduous journey toward healing. Through poignant allegory and psychological insight, scam victims are encouraged to confront their inner demons and find a path toward redemption and recovery.

SCARS Scam Victim Support & Recovery Program

Scam Victims Welcome To Hell

Scam Victims & The Circles Of Hell – an Insight into Recovery

Many Scam Victims Compare Their Time After The Scam Ends To Being In the Circles of Hell!

This comparison is not without merit. Since the process of recognizing trauma and processing grief is a lot like the early descriptions of the circles of hell.

Dante Alighieri wrote a book called “INFERNO” hundreds of years ago (in the early 1300s), where he describes the 9 Circles of Hell and his struggle for redemption and the achievement of his goals. Interestingly the 9 rings relate a lot to scam victims and their struggle to make it out of hell following the end of their relationship scam.

SCARS NOTE: Dante’s Book is highly religious, specifically Roman Catholic, and we portray some of that here. Our intent is not to promote a religion, nor to offend its followers, but just to use the Inferno as an allegory for the experience scam victims face during recovery. But understanding and acknowledging the deepness of the path before all scam victims, it allows for strength in that knowledge – just as Dante’s hero had no illusions or biases about where he was, scam victims should also try to accept that at the beginning of their journey, it is long and oh so hard, but going forward with the firm knowledge that there is a way through!

Here are each of the 9 circles of hell and how it relates to being a scam victim on the journey to recovery

Our thanks to Penguin Random House for their insights and simplification of the 9 Rings of Hell.

The Circles Of Hell – First Circle: Limbo

In the INFERNO: The first circle of hell is home to the unbaptized and virtuous pagans. It’s not Heaven, but as far as Hell goes, it isn’t too bad: It’s the retirement community of the afterlife. Hippocrates and Aristotle will be your neighbors, so any attempt at small talk will probably turn into Big Talk in a hurry. You’ll have television, but all of the channels will be set to CSPAN.

With scam victims: This is the place scam victims arrive at right after the scam ends. This is the place of shock, confusion, and desperation. “Where am I?” “How did I get here?”

The Circles Of Hell – Second Circle: Lust/Desire

In the INFERNO: The wind-buffeted second circle of Hell is the final destination of the lustful and adulterous — basically anyone controlled by their hormones. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy were among its most famous residents during Dante’s day, but you can expect this place to be full of angsty teenagers and reality television stars by the time you arrive.

With scam victims: This is the place where victims begin to experience their new needs. The need to gain control of themselves and others, where they instantly believe they are now experts in cybercrime, victimization, and how to help other victims, as only they can.

The Circles Of Hell – Third Circle: Gluttony

In the INFERNO: In this circle of hell, today’s forecast calls for plenty of icy rain and slush — a “wintery mix” for all eternity. You know those people whose Instagram feeds are full of carefully lit photos of artfully arranged entrees? You’ll probably find them here, plus anyone whose response is “I’m kind of a foodie” when asked where they’d like to go eat.

With scam victims: we often see early on, a desperation for answers. Not so much for knowledge but certainty! This is a burning desire to find things out and make someone pay for what happened. In its way, this is a kind of gluttony (with a lowercase “g”). Because they have not yet learned to tell what is true from the urban legends and false information spread by so many others, they just desperately need to consume! This is where those in denial just need to have someone prove to them that it was a scam and force-feed them information about scams.

The Circles Of Hell – Fourth Circle: Greed

In the INFERNO: This section of Hell is reserved for the money-grubbers and overly materialistic among us. According to Dante, those condemned to the fourth circle spend eternity fighting over money and valuables, so be prepared to meet all of your distant cousins who show up out of nowhere with empty U-Haul trucks the moment after a well-to-do great aunt or uncle dies.

With scam victims: This is a place for those trapped in denial over the money they sent to the criminals. This is the part of the after-scam experience where victims have the hardest time accepting the loss of their money! This is what is called “chasing the money.” The dream that you can get your money back is seductive and at times overpowering. Your need (greed – but not bad greed) drives victims to chase after the money, no matter what the cost to their recovery and increasing trauma. When victims are unable to accept that the money is gone, they are stuck and unable to move forward.

The Circles Of Hell – Fifth Circle: Anger

In the INFERNO: Dante tells us that the wrathful and angry souls of this circle spend eternity waging battle on the River of Styx. If playing pirates forever sounds like your idea of a good time, then the fifth circle can’t be too bad. Be prepared to hoist the Jolly Roger and go to war against that one guy in line who yelled at your favorite barista, and the road rage-possessed driver who very nearly rear-ended you last week.

With scam victims: Of course, Anger is a normal part of the processing of grief, but it is also very seductive. It can easily trap and flip scam victims into rage and hate, not only for criminals but for anyone who does not do what they want, or follow what they believe. This is where scam victims become vigilantes and seek only revenge!

The Circles Of Hell – Sixth Circle: Heresy

In the INFERNO: Dante wrote that heretics spent eternity entombed in flaming crypts in the sixth circle, but heresy is kind of an obscure sin in modern times. There are probably plenty of vacancies now, so let’s fill this one with anyone who goes bananas whenever “their” movie franchise or comic book changes in a way they don’t like. The air in the sixth circle is probably choked with ashes and anguished cries of “[X] ruined my childhood!”

With scam victims: Heresy for scam victims means anyone who does not comply or agree with their beliefs, expectations, needs, wants, and desires. But it also is the place for victims who have given in to their cognitive biases and refuse to accept anything close to reality. These are the victims who believe that no one does anything, the police are useless, organizations (like SCARS) do not understand or help victims, and that we are as bad as the scammers! So often they go out and proclaim themselves experts and lure in other like-minded victims. Sadly, most will never fully recover from this. It is also closely related to anger.

The Circles Of Hell – Seventh Circle: Violence

In the INFERNO: I’ll be honest with you, Dante was sadistic when it came to designing this level. It is composed of three rings. The outer ring is filled with blood and fire and reserved for murderers and thugs. That’s fine, but it gets sketchier from here. The middle ring is where, according to Dante, suicide victims go. They’re transformed into trees and fed upon by harpies (which I guess are somehow related to termites?). The inner ring, a place of burning sand, is reserved for “blasphemers.”

With scam victims: The obvious correlation for this ring of hell is for those who lose all hope and may even take their own life. Suicide among scam victims is a fact. Almost 20 adult scam victims take their own lives a day in the United States, and easily a similar number in the rest of the world – perhaps more. The loss of hope is devastating for scam victims regardless of their final actions, that is truly a ring of hell.

The Circles Of Hell – Eighth Circle: Fraud

In the INFERNO: The eighth circle is subdivided into ten trenches. We won’t get into the specifics of who goes where (Too bad, Dante. That’s what you get for making me write about the seventh circle) but here you’ll find con artists of all sorts. Dante described ditches, but I prefer to think of the eighth circle as being a giant cubicle farm full of phone and internet fraudsters. Welcome, supposed “IRS agents” who insist on being paid in iTunes cards.

With scam victims: Well, so scammers have their own ring in hell! Victims seem to populate it as well. Consider those victims who are so deep into denial that even after family and friends have done everything they possibly can, the victim refuses to see the truth. It is possible to defraud yourself by denying the truth?! Some scam victims regularly lie to themselves about what happened, why it happened, and what follows. The only escape is the truth!

The Circles Of Hell – Ninth Circle: Treachery

In the INFERNO: The final circle is a frozen wasteland occupied by history’s greatest traitors. So … Washington, DC in February?

With scam victims: The final ring of hell is also where the devil resides. For scam victims this is the treachery of your own expectations and biases that lie and cheat and lead victims back into new scams, believing that this time it will be different. This roughly equates to the Negotiation part of the grief cycle – instead of allowing yourself to come to full acceptance, victims often either resign themselves to stay where they are (betraying their recovery in sight of the finish line), or worse convincing them that it is safe to back into the water!

Escape From Hell

In the INFERNO: In Dante’s Inferno, he climbed out of hell and into heaven.

With scam victims: For scam victims, this is all about accepting the truth of the situation as early as possible and sticking with the recovery path until the end. It also means allowing grief to follow its course and getting the help needed to learn to manage trauma as well. These are the marker stones that lead out of hell and into the light.

Every scam victim can follow the path that leads out of hell, but few actually do.

This is not to blame them, not at all. The journey through hell is long and difficult and not all will try. But for those that make the commitment to the path they can make it all the way through and out of hell!

We sincerely hope that you are one of those who follow the path and make it through your hell! We will be here every step of the way to guide you, if you let us.

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

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Psychology Disclaimer:

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

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

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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