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The Victim Cloud

The greatest scam in history might be the stigma against those who’ve been defrauded

We’ve all been scammed in some way. Yet when we hear stories about somebody else getting taken, our knee-jerk reaction is to ridicule their gullibility and deride them for not seeing through the lie. In believing that it’s the victims and not the grifters who err, Hannah Zeavin writes, “We do what Americans do best: project the demands of a vulnerable age onto its casualties.” As anyone who has been defrauded can tell you, this bias is reflected in the limited channels for official recourse: unless you were scammed in a very particular way, the police or your bank will pass it off as your fault. Harper’s Magazine web editor Violet Lucca speaks with Zeavin about her essay, the tension between the need for and abuse of trust, how fraud reflects weaknesses in our social and economic systems, and how thinking differently about scams could make a better world possible.

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July 2022

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