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Expert shares 3 tips on how to cope with self-blame after being scammed

A psychologist advises victims of scams to avoid blaming, rebuild self-confidence through critical thinking, and stop justifying their decisions.

Top shot of distressed man with both hands over his head staring into a computer screen.
Psychologist Karyen Chai emphasises the importance of rebuilding trust in oneself after being scammed. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Singapore is experiencing a growing problem with scams, with the police reporting a staggering $660.7 million lost by scam victims in 2022 alone, a significant increase from the previous year's figure of $632 million.

The financial loss caused by these scams is devastating, but it's not just the money that's affected. Victims often experience long-lasting emotional pain, shattering their dreams and leaving them feeling vulnerable and helpless.

However, it is crucial to recognise that scams can happen to anyone, regardless of their intelligence or education level. To try to help tackle self-blame and protect against future scams, Karyen Chai, a psychologist from Thoughtfull Chat, offers three tips.

1. Recognise that scams can happen to anyone

According to Chai, it's essential to understand that blaming oneself is a very natural response. "When something like this happens, there's no one else to blame," she said. However, she advises victims to consider it a learning lesson and recognise that scams can happen to anyone.

"It could be a very painful learning lesson. And it does take time to get out of that self-blame," she added.

Chai points out that scammers often create a sense of urgency or authority to force victims to act quickly without thinking, making anyone vulnerable to scams, regardless of their intelligence or education level.

"Think about the kind of person you're talking to. They can look or seem like someone in authority. So, we tend to fall for authority figures a lot more because we believe these people in authority can get us into trouble if we don't follow their instructions," she pointed out.

Silhouette shot of a woman to show distress.
"Don't justify the decision to fall for a scam," warns psychologist Karyen Chai, as it can lead to cognitive dissonance. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

2. Reclaim your self-confidence

Rebuilding your trust is essential, Chai suggested. Victims must consider how to make themselves believe in themselves again, and this can be achieved through building critical thinking skills.

"Being more aware of what influences your decision-making, such as the environment, the people who are conveying the message, and the situation when the message is delivered, can help. So, think about all of these factors and understand how they can affect your decision-making," she added.

3. Skip the excuses

Chai also warns against justifying the decision to fall for a scam, which can lead to cognitive dissonance.

"Cognitive dissonance happens when our behaviour and beliefs do not match. So when these do not match, we try to close that gap," she explained.

She cited an example: "We get scammed and give money to the scammer - that's the behaviour. However, our belief is that we do not want to fall for a scam. To justify our actions, we may say that we were donating money to a good cause, which would help the economy."

She advises victims to recognise this gap and not to make justifications that do not help with moving forward and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

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