Nearly 30 percent of people who contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) are victims of more than one identity crime. Their latest study covers the 36 months from 2018-2020 and goes beyond the known financial implications of identity crimes and explores the emotional, physical and psychological impacts experienced by victims.
For the report, 427 identity crime victims who contacted the organization between January 2018 and December 2020 responded to questions about the impact of identity compromises.
The survey discovered that many of the respondents experienced impacts that resulted in definable emotional impacts, physical consequences and lost opportunities. For example, the report shows the highest level of victims who say they have considered suicide – 10 percent – in the 18-year history of the report.
A focus on victims of pandemic-related identity fraud
- 33 percent who did not have enough money to buy food or pay for utilities.
- 40 percent who were unable to pay their routine bills.
- 14 percent who were evicted for non-payment of rent or mortgage.
- 54 percent who said they felt violated as a result of their identity being misused.
“The 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report shows that the effects of identity theft, particularly during COVID-19, are far-reaching and accelerating,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
“Even pre-pandemic, for roughly 30 percent of these individuals, this is the second identity crime committed against them. Generally, these victims cannot pay their rent or mortgage, put food on the table, gas in their cars or afford to pay for internet access or childcare needed to look for new employment.
In the report, you see the range of emotions – anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness – in their own words. It is crucial we share these findings so others can better understand the ramifications of identity crimes, as well as help force change to better support these victims.”
“While we have all adjusted to masks and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, for victims of identity fraud, the pandemic has created an entirely new set of risks,” said John Breyault, National Consumers League Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud and an ITRC Board Member.
“It might be tempting to focus only on the considerable harm that identity fraud does to consumers. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the costs to businesses due to lost productivity and lower morale as employees manage their recovery and to taxpayers as fraudsters raid unemployment insurance funds.”
The wider impact of identity crime
Another critical finding discovered is pre-pandemic, identity crime victims struggled with the financial, emotional and physical impacts of having their identities misused. 83 percent of victims could not rent an apartment or find housing and 67 percent incurred debt to meet financial obligations. Also, 84 percent reported being anxious or worried and 76 percent feeling violated.
“The risk of having one’s identity stolen and used to perpetuate fraud may be the least studied, most common, criminal experience that individuals can encounter,” said Brandn Green, Research Scientist at Development Services Group. “The work done by the ITRC in their report to quantify and demonstrate the experiences of victims is invaluable.”