Opportunity Lost: The Aftermath of Identity Theft
There are so many ramifications of being a victim of identity theft and fraud, including lost income, lost time from work trying to resolve the matter, even lost relationships with people close to you. The Identity Theft Resource Center’s annual Identity Theft: The Aftermath 2016 report shows the financial, emotional, and even physical toll that this crime takes on its victims.
The National Cybersecurity Alliance has designated every October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time that is set aside to raise awareness, seek solutions, and work together towards prevention of a devastating crime.
Most people can understand the financial damage that identity theft causes, but too often, consumers don’t know about the legal and even medical dangers associated with the crime. Far too few people, even the victims themselves, are prepared for the opportunities that can be ripped away when someone is targeted by an identity thief.
In this year’s ITRC Aftermath report, victims who’d contacted the agency for help during 2015 answered survey questions about the very broad range of experiences before, during, and after discovering their identities had been stolen. There were some very surprising answers when it came to discussing the opportunities that the victims had missed out on due to this crime.
Victims reported a variety of financial consequences, from the inability to get a credit card or loan to being denied an application for a new car, property rental, or mortgage. While an immediate obstacle might be expected, some victims were unable to get financial assistance months after the fact.
In some cases, victims of identity theft lost their jobs or were turned down for a new job due to the unresolved issues with their credit reports, background checks, police warrants, or other similar issues.
For survey participants who had their tax returns filed fraudulently, meaning someone filed a return in their names and pocketed their refunds, the chance to use their expected refund was taken away. For some, it might have been something as simple as taking a vacation or using it as a down payment on a car, but in more serious instances those refunds were already earmarked for higher education, paying off bills, or other non-frivolous purchases. Some respondents had to resort to taking out loans or even borrowing from their churches just to make ends meet.
Participants in the Aftermath survey reported that the crime even had an impact on their relationships with family members and friends. In some cases, the criminal was a relative and the victim was left with the choice of paying for the damage or filing charges against a loved one. In other instances, survey respondents reported that their friends, co-workers, even romantic partners had a negative impression of them due to what appeared to be their own poor choices, despite having had their identities stolen. This relationship dynamic has resulted in lost jobs, lost relationships, and permanently damaged family interactions.
However identity theft manifests, its impact can be lasting. Each day can bring new surprises for the victims as new damage is discovered. While events like NCSAM work to prepare the public, policymakers, and advocates alike in how to recover from this crime, the real work being done is in prevention.
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.