SCAM SHAMING: The Psychology Behind Scams

Sherry McCoy

Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD

is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

SCAM SHAMING: The Psychology Behind Scams

Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program


Welcome to May 2022 – It’s time to celebrate Older American’s Month and National Senior Fraud Awareness Day! Please join the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in celebrating National Senior Fraud Awareness Day on May 11th at our free virtual library program (see flyer). In addition, check out the free virtual program offered by Ventura County Area Agency on Aging on May 26 (see and for details). Now is a good time to remember how far we’ve come in our awareness of the scams that are out there, of how those scams impact our daily life, and what we can do about it. Even though there is always more to learn, and the likelihood is great that many more scam challenges are just around the corner, let us congratulate ourselves and say, “We’ve come a long way, baby! Good going!” Life is a never-ending game of evolution in consciousness. Today, let’s take a look at how our awareness can help protect us from scammers. First, a feel-good scam story, and then a look at “Scam Shaming.”

SCAM STORY – Recently, I heard a scam story from a man named “Sam” (not his real name), a Not Born Yesterday reader in Indio, CA. It’s a story of a “close call,” where Sam almost got scammed, but at the last moment, his consciousness kicked in and saved the day! Here’s what happened –

Sam got a phone call from someone identifying herself as his granddaughter. The caller said she had been in a bad automobile accident, and that the police thought it was her fault, so they put her in jail. Now, she needed money for bail. Sam noted to the caller that her voice didn’t sound like his granddaughter “Elizabeth” (not her real name). The caller said she was indeed his granddaughter Elizabeth, but that the reason her voice sounded strange was because she had broken her nose in the accident. Elizabeth said her lawyer would be calling him shortly to make arrangements for bail money, and then hung up.

While waiting for the lawyer to call, Sam began to question things. First, Sam thought it was odd that his granddaughter would call him rather than her husband for assistance. Also, Sam realized that not only did the voice of the caller not sound like his granddaughter Elizabeth, but the cadence with which she spoke was truly unlike the way his real-life granddaughter would speak. Everything about the voice of the caller was completely “off.” Sam knew the call was bogus.

When the so-called “lawyer” phoned to make arrangements for bail, Sam uttered a few choice words, told the scammer what he could do with it, and hung up!

NOTE: This scenario demonstrates the evolution in consciousness of both the scammer AND the target of the grandparents’ scam. The scammer adapted her approach when she was confronted with Sam’s awareness that she didn’t sound like his granddaughter, i.e., she said she’d broken her nose in a car accident and that’s why her voice sounded funny. Sam, however, also noted that the cadence of her speech was off, recognizing that his real granddaughter’s speech patterns were different. This awareness led Sam to realize the truth of the situation, which was that the call was a scam.


‘SCAM SHAMING’ – Sometimes in life, we have what are called “Ah-Hah!” moments. Suddenly, we see something with absolute clarity. Something perhaps that has been staring us in the face for quite some time, but we didn’t see it before. It’s shocking, perhaps even a little alarming! How could this be? The new awareness abruptly breaks through and changes our whole perception of reality. That’s what happened recently in the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP). We had an “Ah-Hah!” moment!


At rehearsal one day, Adrienne Omansky, founder and director of SSSAP, mentioned that a friend had been speaking with her about ‘Body Shaming’ (defined in the dictionary as the “action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size”). ‘Body Shaming’ is mean-spirited, at best, and clearly can be damaging to a person’s sense of well-being. Similarly, Adrienne wondered aloud about the ‘Scam Shaming’ that takes place in our society. Statistics show that large numbers of people do not report they have been scammed because they are embarrassed and ashamed. Many scam victims fear that others – friends and family – will humiliate or criticize them for having fallen prey to a con artist, saying they were stupid and should have known better. That it’s their own fault for having been scammed. Sadly, this practice of blaming the victim is too often true, and so the vast majority of scams go unreported.


That’s when a giant light bulb went on in the room!


We realized that ‘Scam Shaming’ is not unlike ‘Body Shaming.’ Both practices are mean-spirited. Both practices are damaging to a person’s sense of well-being. The practice of ‘Scam Shaming’ effectively works to keep scam victims quiet. It robs them of their voice. It hinders the healing process, and it helps to perpetuate scams. It’s actually the psychological king pin that helps keep scammers in business! Because if scams aren’t reported, laws designed to protect us from fraudsters won’t be enforced. The scammers go free, and justice is thwarted.



So let us resolve to do better. Let us resolve to stop blaming victims of scams for having fallen prey to lies. Let us instead do all we can to stop senior scams in their tracks. Let us support those who have been scammed to heal and reclaim their sense of well-being. Let us encourage them to speak out and to report scams to the appropriate authorities. We’re all in this together. And together, we can stop senior scams!



Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at

For questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, contact Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.


[Pic from SSSAP NoHo in-person performance on 4-21-22]

[Pic Caption]


In celebration of National Senior Fraud Awareness Day, SSSAP will host a free virtual library program with Exposition Park – Dr. Mary McLeon Bethune Regional Library on Wednesday, May 11th at 3pm. To make reservations, call Eugene Owens at 323-290-3149,


SSSAP continues virtual programs, and we are now booking in-person programs for 2022. Please contact Adrienne Omansky at for more info, or if your organization would like to host our program.



Please go to the SSSAP YouTube Channel to see our new videos. If you subscribe (free of charge), you will be notified when new videos are released. Together we can Stop Senior Scams! Here are links to two of our most recent videos: “The Top Senior Scams with SSSAP”, and “Robocalls, Mail Fraud and Merlin with SSSAP”


Remember – You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!


Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or

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