When we talk about identity theft, the focus is usually on the financial impact of having your identity stolen. Accounts are opened in your name, you’re billed for things you never purchased, and your credit is deeply damaged in ways that may take years to fix.
But the consequences of fraud aren’t just limited to your bank account and credit report. Having your identity stolen causes ripples that can spread out to all areas of your life. Now a new study from the Identity Theft Resource Center shines a light on just how penetrating this damage can be.
Some key findings:
- 20 percent of respondents experienced criminal identity theft within the last year
- 55 percent of victims missed work as a result their experience with identity theft
- 44 percent of victims lost out on an employment opportunity as a consequence of having their identity compromised
- 54 percent of victims reported feelings of powerlessness or helplessness following the incident
- 23 percent of victims developed fear for not just their financial safety, but their physical safety as well
- 74 percent of victims felt pronounced amounts of stress
- 41 percent of victims developed difficulty sleeping
- 17 percent of victims reported that their relationship with a significant other either ended or was negatively impacted due to their experience with identity theft
- 8 percent of victims admitted to feeling suicidal as a result of their experiences
The story you hear over and over again with victims of identity theft is just how long it takes to shake off all that damage and reclaim your life. The longer the fraud goes on, the deeper the damage, the longer it takes to sort everything out and put your life back in order.
Remember that your credit report and credit score can have a very direct impact on your ability to find housing, get a job, sign up for affordable insurance, and much more. The longer it takes to untangle yourself from fraud, the more chances there are for you to suffer unfairly for someone’s else criminal act.
Physical and mental wellbeing
I remember being a kid and having my bike stolen. It was such a crummy feeling. It made me distrustful and paranoid. Before then I’d never really considered that people – strangers – could just take your stuff, just like that. It made me cautious, but it also made me sad.
It’s easy to see how identity theft would stick with you, even long after you’ve managed to bring your accounts back in order. Someone has stolen your identity – the thing that makes you you. That’s not an easy thing to get past, and you can imagine how stress and worry might follow you around for a long time.
All of this is to make an oft-repeated point – you need to pay attention. You need to pull your credit reports regularly. You need to review your banking and billing statements every month. You need to be thorough and you need to be cautious. Protect your information and stay alert. No matter how hard you work to stay safe, something could still happen, but the sooner you notice and the sooner you act, the less invasive that clean-up process will be.