COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A new study reveals a growing number of identity theft victims are having thoughts of suicide after these difficult and often heartbreaking experiences.
The Identity Theft Resource Center found 16% of identity crime victimswho contacted ITRC in the past year said they’ve considered suicide.
Sara Correll is a mental health professional working to help people in the pikes peak region over the years. She’s noticed her clients targeted by identity theft and scams often face struggles.
”We know this is hard and we know shame and guilt come through this and even suicide which is horrifying,” Correll said.
Many victims of fraud and identity theft are isolated and fear the backlash of sharing their experience, but talking about it with someone they trust is a vital step, according to Correll.
”Giving them that validation that yes, this terrible thing has happened to you and yes, law enforcement may or may not be able to find them. But there is freedom in telling your story,” Correll said.
Many people she’s talked to struggle because they rarely see accountability for the people behind the id theft and scams that do so much damage. But after seeing the ITRC is studying the mental health impacts of these crimes, she’s hopeful lawmakers will have some real data to consider laws that could improve that accountability for the criminals.
”They need facts to be able to move. So these studies are absolutely important. This is the first time I have heard of it and I’ve been in the field for a long time,” Correll said.
”16% of our respondents actually had suicidal thoughts when they were experiencing this crime. 16% and that’s doubled in the last two years. These numbers are not going down,” Eva Velasquez, Identity Theft Resource Center President and CEO, said.
While experts agree these findings are alarming, it's also being viewed as a possible breakthrough in getting people to overcome the shame, fear, and guilt of speaking up about their experiences.
”These respondents were very brave because they were willing to share that this is how it impacted them. So, I applaud them for being honest and open and helping us to understand the scope of the problem. The reality is in the right set of circumstances every single one of us is vulnerable to these crimes,” said Velasquez.
So how can we help friends, family members, even neighbors who are dealing with the fallout after being victimized by identity theft or a scam?
Here are some places the experts say to start…
- Stress that they aren’t alone and anyone can be a victim
- Be kind and not judgmental
- Advise them to change their passwords often
- Tell them to avoid clicking suspicious links
- And take steps to monitor their credit report
If you'd like to take a closer look at the ITRC study you can find it here.