The Emotional Impact of Identity Theft

Each year in October, the National Cybersecurity Alliance plays host to an important month-long program, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This program provides individuals, businesspeople, policymakers, and law enforcement with education on the latest trends in securing sensitive data, as well offers vital information recognizing and combatting cybercrime.

Many people have at least some understanding of the financial consequences of identity theft, but what too many individuals aren’t aware of are the other serious, more lasting effects of being a victim. That’s why the Identity Theft Resource Center conducts the Aftermath survey to  obtain a clearer picture of what happens to victims as a result of having their identities stolen.

This voluntary victim impact survey is offered to people who’ve reached out to the ITRC for help during the previous calendar year. The questions ask for details like how they learned of the crime, how long it took to resolve the issue, and what happened in their day-to-day lives as a result of identity theft.

It’s sad that survey participants report a wide variety of financial and employment consequences after having their identities stolen. But one of the most surprising findings of the survey each year is the number of respondents who report emotional impacts as a result of the crime. Respondents have stated that they experienced everything from feelings of denial, betrayal, and guilt to feelings of isolation and even fear for their physical safety.

According to the results of the Aftermath 2016 report, which was based on survey answers from the 2015 calendar year, respondents indicated the following emotional impact:

  • Frustration or annoyance - 81%
  • Fear regarding my personal financial security - 69%
  • Rage or anger - 58%
  • Sense of Powerlessness or helplessness - 54%
  • Loss of ability to trust - 51%
  • Feelings of betrayal - 44%
  • Isolation - 31%
  • Shame or embarrassment - 28%
  • Fear for my physical safety - 23%

In some extreme cases, respondents admitted to feeling overwhelming sadness (32%) and even thoughts of suicide (8%). This only serves to illustrate the anguish that identity theft and fraud can cause in its victim. By and large, identity theft is a faceless crime, one that many victims can feel powerless to both prevent and prosecute. Coupled with the helplessness and emotional toll, respondents have also stated their relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, and even romantic partners have been affected by identity theft.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

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