Victims of identity theft report physical and emotional fallout, too.
Identity theft can hurt more than your bottom line.
Identity theft victims say the crime harmed their mental and physical health, according to the “2022 Consumer Impact Report,” issued in September by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
The report is based on nearly 100 identity theft reports from consumers to the ITRC as well as results from more than 1,300 consumers who answered an online survey.
Identity thefts reported had emotional — and, sometimes, even physical — effects on those whose identities were attacked. Additionally, new methods of identity theft attacks are emerging or re-emerging, according to the survey.
“Social media account takeover has risen by more than 1,000 percent in just one year, along with a specific attack targeting Google Voice users,” says ITRC report.
“And, after years of preferring to take over existing financial accounts, identity criminals are opening new banking and credit accounts by impersonating consumers using information stolen in data breaches or coaxed out of individuals in phishing attacks.”
Women hit harder than men
Of consumers who reported identity theft to the ITRC, 61 percent were women and 38 percent were men. The online survey also found that women were more often victims of identity theft, 52 percent, compared to 47 percent of male respondents.
Those over 45 report being victimized more often
Identity theft victims between the ages of 45 and 65+ made up 28 percent of complaints reported to the ITRC. However, the results from the general online survey showed different results, with people between the ages of 45 and 54 most often (24 percent) becoming identity theft victims, followed closely (21 percent) by consumers between the ages of 25 to 44.
Find out: How Common Identity Theft Really Is
Many suffered repeat identity theft incidents
More than one-quarter (26 percent) of people who reported identity theft to the ITRC said this incident wasn’t the first time their identity was stolen, compromised or misused. More than half (55 percent) said their incident has yet to be resolved.
Around half of the consumer survey respondents said their identity was stolen or compromised before, and 16 percent were still waiting on their identity theft issues to be resolved.
Identity theft victims suffered emotional effects
Around 87 percent of the ITRC victims said they experienced negative emotions or feelings after their identity was stolen, compromised or misused. The resulting negative emotions and feelings experienced included:
- Worry and anxiety: 80 percent
- Feeling violated: 74 percent
- Anger: 72 percent
- Feeling vulnerable: 70 percent
- Loss of trust: 55 percent
- Sadness or depression: 49 percent
- Shame or embarrassment: 42 percent
- Guilt: 33 percent
- Suicidal feelings: 10 percent
Victims suffered physically, too
Nearly three-quarters (68 percent) of consumers who reported identity theft to the ITRC said that having their identities attacked resulted in physical problems, including:
- Trouble sleeping: 92 percent
- Stress: 88 percent
- Persistent aches, pains, headaches and/or cramps: 42 percent
- Changes in eating/drinking habits: 36 percent
- New unhealthy/addictive behaviors: 17 percent
- Relapse of unhealthy/addictive behaviors: 16 percent
How to protect yourself from identity theft
No matter how diligent you are, you might still end up a victim of identity theft. However, taking certain steps can reduce the chances of criminals stealing your sensitive, personal identification for purposes of identity theft.
1. Monitor your credit report
You can get free copies of your credit reports as frequently as once a week at AnnualCreditReport.com through December 31, 2023. Regularly review your report, watching for new, unfamiliar accounts. If you see any, contact the creditor and credit bureau to dispute the information.
If your identity or other information was compromised, consider placing a fraud alert or freeze on your credit with all three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
2. Install cybersecurity software
Subscribe to reputable cybersecurity software to protect your laptop, phone and other devices from hackers after your passwords and other personally identifiable information that could be used for identity theft purposes.
3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi
As convenient as public Wi-Fi is, the poorly secured connection throws open the door to a hacker gaining access to your passwords, bank and credit card accounts and maybe even your Social Security number. If you must use public Wi-Fi, make sure you turn on a virtual private network (VPN) — a feature that probably comes with your cybersecurity software — first.
4. Manage your passwords
Use a secure password manager such as LastPass or 1Password to hold and keep passwords so they’re not available to prying eyes.
5. Be careful with online payments
Pay online only on sites with “https” and a padlock icon in the URL.
6. Sign up for credit monitoring
Sign up for a secure credit monitoring service that provides access to your credit reports and alerts you about potentially fraudulent transactions or suspicious accounts.
Have you had your identity stolen? Get professional help to clean up errors in your credit report.
Published by Debt.com, LLC