Identity theft can be devastating on many levels for victims. But it results in more than just serious financial effects, like negatively impacting your credit score, which then affects your ability to get a mortgage or buy a new car.
The extreme stories are even more terrifying, like the Arizona man who received upwards of $46,000 in unpaid tax bills from the IRS last year alone because people stole his identity and used it to find employment.
Not surprisingly there’s a severe emotional toll that victims often report. And it goes way deeper than just the anger or frustration you might expect. Some victims even exhibit the same emotions or symptoms that a trauma survivor might, like depression, loss of motivation, heightened anxiety, sleeplessness, volatility, trouble sleeping or eating, and self-medicating tendencies using drugs, alcohol, food or a combination.
“An estimated 36 percent of identity theft victims reported moderate or severe emotional distress as a result of the incident,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics
The University of Texas at Austin recently released its Identity Threat and Assessment Prediction, which points out identity crimes aren’t just about dollars and cents.
“Emotional distress experienced by the victims is involved in a higher percentage of incidents than financial and property loss. Emotional impact is consistently higher than other types of loss,” according to the report.
Identity theft victim Amy Krebs details what it felt like to have her identity stolen in this Forbes.com story.
“It’s the most time-consuming, upsetting, emotional event you have to go through,” she said.
From the very first day Krebs learned someone had her info and was opening up credit cards, she said “There was no relaxing from that point on. It’s been almost two years, and it’s still like it just happened.”
Using Krebs’ social security number, maiden name and an old address, an identity thief opened more than 50 accounts, ranging from credit cards and cable to public utilities, like water and gas.
“Somebody went in and so easily removed my information and had their information override mine on this all important, encompassing document — my credit report,” Krebs said. “You’re told from a young age to establish credit responsibility so down the road, you can make a big purchase like a vehicle or home. Meanwhile, some lunatic has barely any information about me and gets access to all these goods and services — yet I have to to go fill out all these affidavits and turn in my utility bills and all my personal data to remove this fraudulent charge.”
Research has shown it can take hundreds of hours to repair the damage of identity theft. It’s an extremely daunting task, one that leaves people overwhelmed and frustrated, according to Sandi Servi, LibertyID’s Member Services Advocate and the first point of contact for many of the identity theft victims who call in.
The identity theft victims she speaks to usually fall into one of two categories.
“Some people have tried to deal with the issues themselves and just feel overwhelmed and others are just at a total loss about what to do and where to begin,” said Servi, recalling a woman who called who had just been robbed of her purse and computer among other belongings.
Another woman who called had had her computer hacked. She likely clicked on a link that allowed malware to infect her computer. As a result, criminals were able to track every keystroke she made.
“The criminals were then able to access her bank accounts,” Servi said. “The bank contacted her first and then all of a sudden other issues began popping up.”
When victims first call in, Servi kindly listens as they explain their nightmare. Then she explains the LibertyID process, including that as part of their subscription they’ll be assigned a personal restoration specialist who will handle everything for them moving forward, from filing affidavits and disputes to communicating with creditors, government agencies and collection agencies.
The extreme relief people feel at this news is readily apparent.
“People are just floored they don’t have to go through this themselves. They’re so grateful,” Servi said.
Are you covered for identity theft?