Identity Theft: Emotional Impact

Identity theft is a complicated and personal problem.  It is normal for this crime to have an emotional impact on you and your family.  As you take care of the paperwork, don’t forget to leave time to work on healing your and your family’s emotional wounds.

Be prepared for a wide variety of emotions.

Few people are emotionally prepared for the impact of identity theft.  Victims of identity theft will feel overwhelmed at times by the psychological pain of loss, helplessness, anger, isolation, betrayal, rage, and even embarrassment.  This crime triggers deep fears regarding financial security, the safety of family members, and the ability to trust again.  You might also have to deal with the fact that someone you know personally was involved in the theft.

Finally, you may feel frustrated by the very people you turn to for help.  Identity theft is a difficult crime to solve, and the wheels of justice are still squeaky.   Be patient with yourself and with those who want to help.

While it might take some time to straighten out the paper trail, it is important for you to regain your emotional balance as quickly as possible.  First, recognize and accept your fears, apprehensions, and frustrations.

Some people become embarrassed about being an identity theft victim.  They feel ashamed and as if they did something wrong or maybe deserved to have this happen to them, but, remember, no one deserves to be a victim of identity theft. 

In 2008, according to the Federal Trade Commission, there were an estimated 9.9 million new victims of identity theft.  You don’t need to go through this experience alone.

The emotional damage and isolation you experience can feel worse if you believe family members or friends don’t understand what you are going through.  The reality is that people who have not gone through identity theft may not realize the continuous impact of this crime.

This crime may threaten your credit rating, your ability to get a loan, tenancy or employment. If you are the primary breadwinner, please know you have not let your family down.  You are an innocent victim. Being honest with other members of the family removes some of the weight from your shoulders. Let your loved ones and friends provide encouragement and support.

If you know the imposter, you may feel more pronounced feelings of betrayal, especially if the person was a friend or family member.  It may be very difficult to turn this person in to the authorities.  You might want to seek counseling, either to help you make your decision or to live with the results.

When the imposter is unknown, victims often report a feeling of insecurity, wondering if the person standing next to them in the market or walking past them on the street may be the imposter.  In order to function, it is important to focus on the crime and not the criminal.

Although you may wish that the criminal be brought to justice, the reality is that this may not occur.  Making sure that your identity is cleared must become your primary goal.

One way to recover from the emotional impact from this crime is to become active in a program that assists others.  Some crime victims find that by helping others and moving from their personal experience into a broader setting, they more quickly and fully heal.

Should you consider professional help?

Some victims can lose the ability to function and cope with everyday activities.  They may be severely depressed – some symptoms are exhaustion, overeating, anxiety, drinking, forgetfulness, or an unwillingness to leave home or their bed.  Don’t wait until you feel lost at the bottom of a pit.

Even if you don’t feel overwhelmed, talking to a trained professional who specializes in crime victims can be very helpful.  This could be a victim advocate, religious leader, a licensed counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Coping Tips

  • Recognize your emotions.
  • Be consistent and organized. 
  • Don’t forget the rest of your life.
  • Accentuate the positives.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Be kind to yourself. 
  • Exercise. 
  • Set limits.