"Scam" on brick wall on scammed blog about the trauma triggered by scamming

This week, someone tried to scam us at the office.  Twice on the same day.

For several weeks of someone from another country asking to set up a series of appointments with us while here on an extended leave.  Melanie’s spidey sense said something wasn’t quite right, though nothing she could specifically point to.  The gentleman promised payment, but wrote he couldn’t call with a credit card or pay on our payment page through Paypal.

Yesterday we got the cheque.  Not from the country he is from.  A different return address on the outside of the envelope than the address on the cheque.

The cheque is for roughly 4 times more than the number of appointments he has requested.

The classic overpayment scam.

We won’t be cashing the cheque. We won’t be swindled for several thousand dollars.

Later in the afternoon, I had a request to call a researcher.

I have had people be generous to me giving me answers when I had questions, so when I can, I respond–as a way of paying it forward. I use research all the time…so it makes sense to contribute to it when I can.

This “researcher” emailed me with a link to help her compile data she was developing as she was doing a national report on bullying behaviour. I completed the electronic survey.  I answered more of her questions on the phone at her request.  Then she sent me her documentation of the phone call for her report.  Her attention to detail had been poor, and it badly misrepresented what I said on several important points…and, the night before I left early for vacation, I scrambled to send her an email with corrections.

She emailed me yesterday morning about a press release to a local radio show and quoted myself and another Winnipeg clinician, asking if it would be ok to give my name to the radio host. Another part of public service is educating the public when I can, so I agreed. That’s when she asked me to call her.

I did…and suddenly she was offering a media package to me.  She was willing to put me on further press releases, she said–as long as I was willing to pay her for it. She was inviting me to pay her for 15 hours of consultation to “help me advance my media career”. It was then that I googled her name and realized that she runs a business consulting business. This “research” is apparently a front to hook clinicians to advertise her services.

Research is sacred. And important. And requires high ethical standards to be useful.

And solid research needs to be done solely for the pursuit of unbiased results, to keep it pure and accurate…definitely not for marketing.  Having secondary gain from research is unethical. Presenting a marketing scheme as a genuine research is deceit.

Long and short…I invested good time on three or four occasions where I chose not to do other important things to help the common good–or so I thought.

I’m still not quite sure if she misled me as to her genuine purpose, or  if she is unethically piggybacking her own agenda onto research–either is wrong. Both are So.  Not.  Cool.

Either one of these took advantage of my time…and my trust.

I tell you this because two scams in one day had me coming home discouraged. Mistrusting of everything and everybody.

And inadvertently suspicious.

The whole world seemed a little less safe to me.

I noticed myself even reading the news with skepticism.

And then it got right outta hand.  Husband–dear, faithful, Husband who is as honest as the day is long–became the recipient of my suspicion.  We had talked about a conversation he would have with a family member…and here it was 8 days later, and that day it began to seriously irritate me that he hadn’t had this chat.

I became convinced he wasn’t going to have it.  Without talking to him about it, I started telling myself stories about how I knew he wasn’t going to follow through on something important.  I began planning for how I was going to handle the natural outcomes of this conversation not happening.  I began thinking about all the alternatives that I would have to face in light of the fact that I was on my own with this, and that Husband was not going to do what he said he would do.

I told myself  he had betrayed me too.

And then I started feeling the pain of this additional betrayal, on top of the sting of the two scams already today.

Even though a teeny, tiny little part of my brain knew I was catastrophizing and premature.

It wasn’t rational, but it was real.

I couldn’t stop myself.

The feelings of betrayal were real.  Even though the betrayal was not.

But then it was almost bedtime.  And I slept on it.

And then Husband brought me a latte, as he does almost every morning, and we sat to chat for a few minutes in the way we start our day. Husband wakes me up almost every morning with a latte in hand...such a crazy commitment of love and devotion. That sort of gentle kindness made it challenging to continue the anger from the night before.

Being now freshly rested and chatting with him about the day and the week, I found it in me to let him know that I was primed to be distrusting when I got home, and so I had then found good reason to be mistrusting of him.  I told him the story I was telling myself about his lack of caring and trustworthiness. I told him about the way I had been brainstorming how I would handle the situation without his help…and I also said that I knew I wasn’t being fair with him.

Husband intuitively knows that in my moments of fear, I have an inherent mistrust that kicks in. He could remember, better than I could in that moment, that my reactions to the scams of the day before was actually a trigger because of a much larger betrayal in years gone by.

The most damaging part of broken trust is the trauma to our hearts and souls from being betrayed by the people we love and trust. Heart with key on wooden boards as background Funny how current bumps on the road feel so much bigger when they reinjure long forgotten wounds.

We may scar over from past hurts and be ok for a while…sometimes years…but the feelings of pain from those scars come back fresh and wounding.

That pain can take a person’s breath away…and a person finds themselves gasping for breath, and not even quite sure why it is hard to breathe.

He heard me mistrust him.  I told him that I was having trust issues and so I wasn’t sure he was going to follow through and I would be alone on this one. Those are hard words not to take personally.

So, here’s the remarkable thing about Husband:  He heard the old fears under my words, and understood that I was scared more than I was mad.  He didn’t get defensive, tell me I was silly, or get angry that I didn’t trust him.

He did tell me he had my back.  He did tell me that he  was aware he hadn’t done anything on this conversation in a week, and so he understood my concerns.  He told me that he loves me and he wants me to trust him, and he would be trustworthy.

And then he followed through.

This whole experience of being scammed and triggered and watching myself go a little crazy in a completely different situation at home with a guy who didn’t deserve it had me feel in my body very personally what I witness regularly in the counselling room.

So often, folks come to talk to me as individuals and couples wondering why they are reacting so strongly to seemingly insignificant events.

  • A man worries about his health. This is after his wife battles cancer, both parents die, and a daughter is in a car accident, all in a short space of time. Every mole is suspicious, every cough is suspect. He thinks he is going crazy with his ridiculous health concerns.
  • A child has tummy aches in the morning, and asks to stay home from school when they go on field trips. On further questioning, parents have divorced in the last year, have had trouble coping and grandma died.
  • A woman panics when she can’t reach her husband by phone when he works in a remote location where cell phone service is spotty. In conversation, over time, she tells me had an alcoholic father who didn’t always come home, and dated guys in her teens that were, shall we gently say, inconsistently present for her.

Our bodies remember past big feelings when smaller similar feelings get stirred up.  Those big feelings are so real and in the present that it is tempting to want to fix them in the present.

Like the woman in the last example.  Her body says that he is being untrustworthy…she wonders why he isn’t answering his phones.  She wonders if he is having an affair.  She wants him to get a better cell phone, call more often…or maybe even quit his job to work where there is better cell coverage.

The problem is that her current fear is from a past situation.

The challenge is to identify when the current big feelings are actually sleeping giants from the past.

How can you tell when these giant feelings are rather like Sleeping Beauty, in that they have been kissed by the current situation into waking from their slumber?

  • Do some careful and deliberate grounding. To check out what of these feelings actually applies to today, and what are real feelings that are rooted in history.
  • Up your self care. Be kind to yourself.
  • Journal about the feelings in a curious, non judgmental way
  • Check it out with the people who have earned the right to be trustworthy.
  • Give yourself permission to be affected by past traumatic experiences. Acknowledge that we all bring feelings from the past onto the present. When we give  ourselves permission to have this happen, we can give ourselves permission to own it.  That lets us talk with our people in a way that is more connecting. (E.g. I’m a little freaked out right now, and the story I’m telling myself is that you…but I’m not totally sure, so can we talk about it?”)

Being scammed was a horrible feeling. It knocked me off my plumb for a couple of days.

Gosh, but it can be hard to be a human.  But I am.

So are you.

We get hurt, and those hurts might heal, but they get reinjured and that hurts like heck.

My experience of being (almost) scammed (times two!) this week reminded me all over again of the tremendous pain of betrayal and the incredible power of triggers.

It also reminded me of the courage of our clients who have been hurt, are willing to get curious, able to explore their pain and then able to capably release it


  • Shelley Schmidt

    Yikes that was me this week. Son decides to by a motor bike (the fast kind)…I freaked out…panicked…like really panicked….racing heart….tears….actually sobs. Started to think i was losing it… my tears i looked at this boy i love more then words, and said i cant stand the thought of losing you! I know all too well that kind of pain. I lost my only sibling 25 years ago. My brother whom i loved and adored. The loss was inimaginable….and the pain..unbearable. I not only had to deal with my loss, but i had to watch my mom try to manage life. Never thought love could hurt so much! Wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy! Yep the bike…my boy…. I was triggered! Am i still scared?….Yes!!! fear still shows his ugly head in my heart…..but i have to realize not everyone dies on bikes. Poor son…..he witnessed his mama unravelling right before his eyes. Did he need to hear my concern? Yes! Did he need to experience his mom have a complete melt down? Na, i dont think so.

    • Carolyn Klassen

      Wow…what a powerful example of being triggered so powerfully. Thanx for telling us about this. Your son had a chance to notice that you are human, and that you care, and that the loss of your brother still matters to you. It’s so surprising to a person when they get hijacked like that, isn’t it? You work through it in your comment so clearly…it’s great for all of us to witness the way you have talked yourself through it. Again…many thanx.

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