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Growing number of identity theft victims consider suicide, study finds

Identity Theft Report
Posted at 3:51 PM, Sep 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-01 19:40:02-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A new report reveals a growing number of identity theft victims consider suicide.

The Identity Theft Resource Center found 16% of identity crime victims who contacted ITRC in the past year said they’ve considered suicide as a result of having their identities misused.

“In the last 20 years that response rate was 2-4 percent, but over the last three years it’s grown exponentially,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of ITRC. “This year it was up to 16%. Let that sink in. 16% of people contemplated taking their own life as a way out.”

Part of the reason for the increase — scams are becoming more sophisticated including phishing, business email compromise and social media account takeovers.

Plus, people are losing large sums of money to various identity scams.

“Shame and embarrassment is a huge contributing factor to why people are contemplating taking their own lives,” said Velasquez. “The way we talk to and about victims of this crime type has a huge impact. We say they were duped or they fell for it, when we should say they were lied to.”

Velasquez said people are very dismissive and judgmental about scam victims, which contributes to the rise in suicidal thoughts.

“People do feel violated,” said Velasquez. “They do feel like someone broke into their house and took something of value. It’s their identity.”

Her top 3 tips for protecting your identity are:

  • Freeze your credit and your children’s credit
  • Use multifactor authentication on devices
  • Verify any contact (email, call, text) by going directly to the source

The Identity Theft Resource Center also offers the following tips:

  • Use a unique username and passphrase (12+ characters long) for all of your online accounts.
  • Make sure your browser is secure.
  • Do not give out your PII or financial information through social media platforms, text or email, especially when you have not verified the requestor’s authenticity.
  • Use a digital wallet.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi unless you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
  • Make sure your social media profiles are set to private; avoid posting anything publicly.
  • Review companies’ privacy policies to understand how your data will be used, stored and protected. Ask what information they have to hold and what can be deleted.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) with an authenticator app, if possible. Text messages and phone calls with authorization codes can be spoofed.
  • Do not click on unexpected pop-ups in your browser or on your device. Also, don’t click on any links in unknown emails, texts or social media posts. Instead, go straight to the source when verifying an email, text or social media post.