Identity theft is a crime that impacts millions of people a year; it can be unsettling and upsetting, to say the least. The process of cleaning up the aftermath of identity theft can lead to feelings of powerlessness, embarrassment, and frustration, feelings that no one should have to endure. If your identity has been compromised in some way, it’s important that you understand what steps you can take in order to relinquish those feelings and move forward.

There was a time when identity theft was often a “victim blaming” type of crime, when authorities, your financial institutions, and even your family or friends would ask what you had done to allow someone to infiltrate your information. The early days of internet scams and the so-called Nigerian Prince money scams only furthered this notion, as many of the early victims of these types of crimes were seen as greedy or gullible, and therefore deserving of the consequences.

Now, however, with a record high number of data breaches in 2014 alone, the public is more aware that there may be steps you can take to minimize your risk, but that there is still the possibility of a hacker accessing your data through no fault of your own. Here are some important points to ponder from the ITRC Fact Sheet for moving past the negative feelings associated with identity theft so you can adopt a healthier, happier outlook and feel safe again:

  • Security – It’s perfectly natural to feel like you’re in danger following an identity theft, and do not let anyone try to downplay your feelings about it. Some faceless criminal has access to your entire persona, and could be committing a wide variety of crimes with it. This person may have gained access not just to your name or Social Security number, but also to your phone number, your address, even the name of the business where you work. While it’s not likely that this person stole your information in order to cause you physical harm, it’s still upsetting to not know how far this could go.
  • Embarrassment – Even if you were somehow at fault for your own identity theft—such as by clicking on a phishing email or handing over your information to a scammer—what’s done is done. More important, just because you fell for it does not make you deserving of whatever the thief has planned. The crime and the wrongdoing are his, not yours, and you have nothing to be embarrassed about.
  • Frustration – While the process of clearing up an identity theft is getting more and more streamlined thanks to the high rates of this crime, it’s still a time consuming, frustrating process. You’ll spend more time on the phone—quite possibly sitting on hold, listening to canned music—than you ever thought you would. There may also be time lost from work while you resolve the matter, which can cause additional stress and can result in having to work overtime to make up for it. But just because millions of other people each year can find themselves in the same boat does not mean you don’t have a right to feel irritated by it.
  • Violation – Face it, even if it wasn’t your physical boundaries that were compromised, your personal security and the safety you thought you once enjoyed have been violated. That can be frightening, can cause anger issues, and can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways.

While you work to restore your good name after identity theft, remember to take some time for your emotional health. Care for your needs and the needs of your family, and consider professional help if you find that the overwhelming feelings are more than you can handle on your own.