Identity theft is, unfortunately, quite common, and is becoming more prevalent each year. The Identity Theft Resource Center estimates that more than 10.7 million people are affected by ID theft annually, and concludes that the crime was at least three times as common as any other non-violent offenses in the U.S. Every day, there is a chance that you could be the next person affected.
But just because identity theft happens frequently doesn’t mean that it should be considered routine or benign. The fact is that victims of this crime face serious consequences. Previously, we’ve discussed how ID theft can ruin credit and leave people with insurmountable debt. Now, a report by the Identity Theft Resource Center delves deeper into the emotional effects of such a traumatic event, in addition to the financial impacts.
A deep mental toll
Think about how much your own emotional stability rests on your financial security. No matter what is going on in your life, you’ll rest a little easier knowing that your basic needs are taken care of. You’ll be much less stressed at work if you are confident that the success or failure of your most recent project won’t determine whether you are able to stay in your house. And, you’ll be happier and more social with the knowledge that a little splurge now and then will not prevent you from buying groceries or paying bills.
Now imagine if one day the rug was yanked out from under you. Suddenly, your bank account is empty and your credit cards are maxed out. Debt collectors are calling, and you have a new mortgage under your name for a house located in a state where you have never been.
When identity theft hits you, it can hit hard, and the effect can be shattering.
The ITRC study, which was conducted in 2013, found that many victims of identity theft report serious trust issues, as well as a general sense of nervousness and foreboding. Sixty-nine percent said they feared for their financial security, while 50 percent reported they felt a sense of powerlessness or helplessness. Above all, a full 81 percent said they simply felt frustrated by the situation they had been put in.
Any time people face serious stressors, there is a chance that their personal lives will be negatively affected. One-fifth of the respondents said that family members did not understand the situation they were in, and did not support them. Additionally, 14 percent said that they experienced relationship difficulties with their significant others. This, in turn, further contributed to the breakdown of the victim’s emotional state.
Some people never fully recovered from the crimes committed against them. Dr. Charles Nelson, a psychologist and a member of the ITRC Board of Directors, noted in the report that some victims seriously contemplate suicide, viewing it as “the only way out of their deep, paralyzing economic cavern that the perpetrator(s) threw them into.” According to the study, 6 percent of respondents reported feeling suicidal, while 9 percent said they had fallen into harmful addictive behavior as a result of what happened to them.
Strengthen your protection
Identity theft can strike anyone, but you can be proactive about protecting yourself to the best of your ability. There may be no guarantee of stopping ID theft attempts, but you can have a warning system in place that will allow you to react as quickly as possible.
An identity theft protection like Identity Guard can help by monitoring your credit files, Social Security Number and public records. Our service will alert you to certain activity that could be indicative of fraud, allowing you to take action.