Do Not Blame Yourself

by Ben Widlanski | October 2019

Charles PonziIn one of our earliest articles, Tal Lifshitz outlined the top 10 tips for Ponzi victims. I’d like to focus on only one of those tips, #2: Recognize that you are a victim.

Victims of crimes often blame themselves. This is true across the entire scope of criminal conduct; whether someone is the victim of a random act of violence, the target of an elaborate robbery, or the deceived investor in a fraudulent scheme – one of the first thoughts victims sometimes have is “I should have seen this coming.”

Sadly, when people have this (entirely natural and normal) reaction, they are re-victimizing themselves. Worse, it can prevent them from assisting law enforcement or their attorneys in securing retribution, because they might be embarrassed that they “fell for it” or maybe they “were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and recovery attorneys have all seen far too many victims blame themselves; everyone says the same thing: criminals choose their victims, not the other way around. Nowhere is this truer than in the context of financial frauds.

Fraudsters identify people they think are vulnerable. Maybe it’s due to a lack of education or experience with a particular type of investment; maybe it’s due to age or incapacity; maybe it’s due to naiveté – there are any number of reasons why a fraudster might target a specific person or class of people. The important thing to remember, after the fact, is that in order to obtain a measure of justice, a victim cannot blame him or herself. A victim cannot be embarrassed or ashamed about being a victim – fraudsters are counting on that! And just like we would never “blame” the victim of a mugging for walking alone down a poorly-lit street at night, no one would ever “blame” the trusting victim of a complicated financial fraud.

How do you fight back? By remembering everything that happened. Don’t be angry at yourself, be angry at the fraudster. Grab a note pad, and start writing down details about every interaction you ever had with the fraudster or anyone connected with the fraudster. Search your emails and text messages for communications you had with him; go through your documents, find any paperwork the fraudster gave you.

Criminals are counting on their victims’ silence. Don’t be silent – find your voice. And the first thing to remember is: it is not your fault, you did nothing wrong.

Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton

Ben Widlanski
Ben Widlanski is a partner at KTT who focuses on high-stakes commercial litigation, class actions, and Ponzi scheme and financial fraud recoveries. Prior to his time at KTT, Ben was an assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida, where he litigated, prosecuted, and investigated hundreds of federal criminal actions. Ben is also a former United States Army officer, and a graduate of Columbia University and Columbia Law School.​

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