Recently, a woman who’d been hit by identity theft called our offices, asking for help. After detailing the financial side of her exposure, she began talking about the personal aspects of the crime. Describing her fears about personal safety, she said the experience left her feeling violated, as if the thief had robbed her on the street. That led to bouts of depression and worry.
When discussing identity theft, people often talk about the financial impact, and rightly so. The crime can have long-term repercussions if not handled quickly and properly. But what’s discussed less often is the emotional effects of identity theft.
A Growing Issue
According to an Equifax report, psychologists and therapists are beginning to see the emotional difficulties that identity theft can create. The researchers noted that victims may experience feelings that are similar to being affected by violent crimes, like a home invasion or an assault.
Common reactions include self-blame, isolation, fear and feelings of vulnerability. These emotions can become magnified through conflict with family, friends or a significant other, and can negatively affect relationships.
One victim told NBC News that she and her husband would have preferred having their house burned to the ground, or being robbed at gunpoint, than suffering the effects of identity theft. “There would have been less hassle, less stress and less indignation,” she said. “It caused the death of our marriage and of everything we’ve known to be safe and secure. I have no hope or faith or trust in anybody anymore.”
A survey from the Identity Theft Research Center showed that the majority of victims felt fearful and angry. About a third had overwhelming sadness or feelings of helplessness, and nearly 7 percent had contemplated suicide as a result of identity theft.
According to the report, these feelings intensified over time when victims were unable to resolve the issue on their own. They suffered problems with getting jobs, restoring credit ratings and blocking collection agency calls, leading to lingering emotional effects and stress even years after the crime. These are the far-too-high hidden costs of an attack.
Take Action Now
When considering how to handle the emotional effects of identity theft, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not alone. There are millions of identity theft victims every year, and that’s why IdentityForce works so diligently to help protect people from the crime and to quickly provide fully managed restoration services if it does occur.
There are also multiple agencies, from the FBI to the IRS, that understand the prevalence of identity theft. They have representatives you can contact if you feel concerned.
As our recent caller did, it’s beneficial to reach out to others when a theft occurs and talk about the emotional impact you might be feeling. Acknowledge that identity theft hits more than your bank account or your credit cards — it can also impact your feelings of security and safety. By recognizing the effects and getting help, you can reduce the chances that thieves will also steal your peace of mind.