ID Theft Aftermath Shows a Wake of Financial and Emotional Victims

Identity theft is a highly personal crime with almost 40% of victims unable to obtain credit cards following the incident, and nearly 25% seeking help for the emotional and physical aftershocks.

The San Diego based The Identity Theft Resource Center released, “Identity Theft: The Aftermath 2017,” which explores the effects of identity theft victimization. The report, conducted intermittently since 2003, consist of voluntary responses of victims who contacted the ITRC for assistance in 2016.

The survey, conducted prior to the Equifax breach, shows the potential damage of personally identifiable information available on the dark web.

“We’ve often found that when people think of identity theft, they think about the financial ramifications associated with this crime on its victims, not the emotional impact,” Eva Velasquez, CEO and President of the ITRC, said. “In looking at the Aftermath results, we continue to see the emotional devastation caused by this crime, which further reiterates the need for all stakeholders – consumers, industry and government – to work together to influence change and ultimately reduce the amount of people impacted every year.”

The survey responses help the ITRC capture quantitative data pertaining to identity theft to better understand the impact of this crime from the victims themselves. ITRC also uses the responses to identify trends that may influence identity theft issues year after year. The 176 victims responded from 40 states and the District of Columbia. The top three states in the number of survey participants were California, Florida, and Texas, for the second year in a row. The area where the victim lives may not be the same as the location of the crime.

Other report highlights:

Lost Opportunity Costs: In dealing with their identity theft case, nearly one-third of respondents indicated they spent time away from other life experiences, like hobbies or a vacation, with more than 25% indicating they had to borrow money from family or friends. Some respondents reported having to take time off work or spending time away from family (both at 22%) while others found it necessary to relocate or move, or sell possessions (both at 15.3%).

Financial Effects: 38.2% of respondents indicated they were either unable to obtain credit cards or denied a credit card due to their identity theft incident, which is up 6.4% over the previous year’s figures. More specifically, 34.2% were unable to obtain a loan, 27.6% found themselves in debt, 15.8% were unable to rent an apartment or find housing, and 3.3% declared bankruptcy due to this crime.

Personal toll. Respondents noted they are now less trusting of family and friends at 15.9% and 15.2%, respectively. Three-quarters of survey respondents (75.5%) suffered severe distress over the misuse or attempted misuse of their personal information. Nearly 62% of the respondents had not yet resolved their identity theft case even after more than five years.

“Identity theft is not just a statistic; it is important to realize the numbers represent victims, the harm is serious, and it can impact victims’ ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or go to college. Julie Fergerson ITRC Board Chair, and VP of Emerging Technologies at Ethoca, said. She added, consumers are growing weary of the impersonal way businesses handle personally identifying information and their lack of accountability following a breach.

“The impact of identity theft can be devastating and long-lasting, impacting the victim’s financial wellbeing in many ways, ranging from bad credit to outright bankruptcy. Years of data breaches, culminating in the Equifax breach, have left millions of people exposed to identity theft. Quite simply, it has become one of the most important challenges of our time,” Matt Cullina, ITRC Board of Directors, and CEO of CyberScout, stated.


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