Negative Effects of Identity Theft
In recent times the concept of identity theft or fraud has been quite in splurge but most of us are not aware of what it exactly it is. An identity fraud or Identity theft is referred to a situation when an imposter gains the access to your personal information like name, address, credit card or bank account numbers, Social Security number, phone or utility account numbers, passwords, or medical insurance number. He then misuses the information derived for his own monetary and personal gains.
The kind of identity theft of which you have been a victim of decides what consequences you will face in future due to having your personal information stolen. The time to recover from the fraud will also depend on the kind of threat you have experienced. There have been reported instances of people who have spent more than six months for resolving the financial and credit problems related to identity theft.
However, the negative impact of identity theft in most cases involves financial frauds, though there can be other consequences, as well and mental stress is one of them. For example, when a thief commits a crime falsifying your identity the police will naturally suspect you. Such instances are known as criminal identity theft and it is quite natural for the authorities to suspect and arrest you. You can now imagine the stress and disruption you will feel in such a situation in your life until you are able to recover from instances of identity theft.
In this article, hence we will discuss the four different ways in which a victim can be affected by identity theft:
Economic or Monetary
The monetary sufferings that are caused by identity theft can still affect you for months or years to come after as your personal financial information is exposed by such thefts. However the type of data identifying the thief has gained access to, the following hurdles can affect the recovery process:
- Disagreeing on the imposter’s activity on your credit files and then trying to restore your good credit
- Recognizing the compromised bank accounts and closing then and at the same time opening new accounts.
- Checking with the authorities of Social Security number if identity theft has occurred against your Social Security number to obtain employment.
- Checking with The Internal Revenue Service to confirm that you have been a victim of tax refund identity theft or an imposter have hacked your identity for dodging income tax by using your Social Security number.
Moreover, by having access to your account, identity thieves can also gain access to your investment and other financial information, the impacts of which will normally affect your retirement plans and job future, your loan approval chances, and your child’s education. Identity theft is not something that you can easily forget about, particularly when it involves certain sensitive and personally distinguishable information like your Social Security number. Imposters may not be using your information immediately after stealing them rather they would wait for the perfect time when you would not be as attentive to the risk. Identity thieves also sell your personal information to the third party.
There is no face of Identity theft but it is the crime that can initiate a host of mental responses. Anger is the first feeling that victims may experience in such instances. But after recovering from the initial shock, other challenging and long-term mental stress may show up.
Let’s say, someone has stolen your identity and has committed a crime in your name, this would directly damage your reputation and can be quite stressful to fix. Additionally, if you are applying for a job and the criminal record pops up in your background check, it will not only affect your employment but also your spirits of confidence. Apart from this, criminal identity theft can also lead to your arrest before you are able to clear up the misunderstanding.
Victims often blame themselves and their family members for not being cautious while handling their personal information.
Because identity thefts are at most times anonymous which we have already discussed, victims often experience feelings of helplessness. A 2016 Identity Theft Resource Center survey of identity theft victims throws light on the frequency of this emotional suffering caused due to identity theft:
- 74 % of reported victims feel stressed
- 69 % of reported victims from fear of personal and financial safety
- 60 % of victims report anxiety
- 42 % of victims report fear for the financial security of their family members
- 8 % of victims report feeling suicidal
Identity theft issues can also produce physical symptoms. In 2016 and ITRC survey showed that 23 % of identity theft victims were afraid about their physical safety, 39 % of victims were unable to focus, and 29 % of victims reported new physical illnesses in the such as body pain, sweating, and heart and stomach issues, while 41% had sleep issues, and the final10 percent could not go to work due to their resulting physical issues.
If an imposter uses your name and commits some crime, the law enforcement arrests you, and that is a highly stressful event. But before you get a clean chit in your name, your arrest record may still show on your background checks, which would affect everything from employment to your loan approval chances down the road. With a negative marking on your identity, you can lose your home if your credit and mortgage ratings are affected. You can also lose your job if your work is affected, apart from failing to obtain new job offers.
Getting a clear name free of criminal charges will surely take a lot of effort, and you will have to do a lot of thing from figuring out whether the thief was arrested and then providing the law enforcement department with relevant documents and your fingerprints, to change all incorrect records from your name to the imposter’s name.
An identity thief who has access to your Social Security number can also access your medical benefits which can impact your medical records as well. This can cause significant penalties when you are under treatment or you have faced emergency and providers do not have the correct information about your or you no longer have coverage of medical benefits.
Today’s world is cyber-focused and the Internet is another way through which identity thieves can gain access to your personal information like your email passwords and social media accounts passwords. We all rely on social media for professional networking or use it to stay connected with friends and family. Hackers can damage your reputation or stop your hiring by corrupting your current accounts—and even creating new fake accounts in your name.
So if you are a victim of identity theft, you can visit the FTC identity theft website for reporting and a recovery guide that will help you to cope with the many challenges you may face due to your identity theft.
cFIRST Think Tank is the team that researches and produces content for cFirst. This team comprises of seasoned content and digital design professionals and background screening industry veterans. Together we produce insightful blogs, infographics and reports meant for HR and background screening professionals.