Identity theft and financial fraud can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions. Identity theft survivors often fall victim a second time to shame, guilt, hopelessness, anxiety, and overwhelming fear. But when you weigh your emotional recovery as heavily as you do your financial recovery, you can come out on top. Practice self-care, speak up, and reach out for help. 

Identity theft can wreak havoc on your finances, but there’s also a more saddening impact: it can shatter your emotional well-being. 

Identity theft and financial fraud are known to have a huge emotional impact on their victims.

How identity theft impacts your mental health

People process emotions in different ways. A victim of identity theft may feel helpless and overwhelmed, or even guilty for not proactively protecting themselves.

There could be further, long-lasting potential emotional effects of identity theft like:  

  • Losing trust in friends, families, and institutions 

  • Experiencing anxiety about the theft potentially affecting you years after first learning of it 

  • Dreading the lengthy, complicated process of undoing the harm with no set-in-stone end date  

  • Feeling lonely and isolated if you’re driving your own recovery 

  • Suffering in silence due to victim-blaming creating embarrassment and shame 

Even USA Today has chimed in. In her article, “Anxiety, depression and PTSD: The hidden epidemic of data breaches and cyber crimes,” reporter Jessica Guynn notes how identity crimes create a huge wake of destruction. 

“It’s not just the nightmarish process of clearing your name and credit history or the struggle to get credit or loans, housing, employment or medical services after a breach. Victims wrestle with feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability,” writes Guynn. 

“Their sleep can be disrupted, energy levels decrease. They self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or food. For some, the after-effects are more severe: bouts of depression and anxiety, even post-traumatic stress disorder.” 

When presented that way, the financial devastation and emotional drain of identity theft can seem inescapable. But there’s a way out. 

Coping with the emotional effects of fraud or identity theft

Allstate Identity Protection's Workforce Planning Manager, April Melheim, says victims should avoid blaming themselves as the first step towards emotional recovery. 

“First of all, understand that this isn’t your fault. Scammers have gotten really, really good at making their ploys look real. It could happen to anyone at any time — there’s no shame in it,” says Melheim.

“Education is a huge part of our restoration process,” Melheim continues. “We make sure victims know how they can be better prepared if it happens again. Taking steps to reclaim your identity can help cut down on the stress and helplessness you may feel.”

The financial or emotional effects of identity theft should also not be dismissed. In early 2023, the Biden administration released a presidential proposal to attack the rise in identity theft and related fraud. The proposal cited the need for victim resources and support groups. 

If the highest office in the country can recognize the devastating impact of the crime, shouldn’t we all? Eva Vasquez, president of the ITRC, thinks so. 

“We need to dismantle the notion it’s a minor inconvenience to be an identity crime victim,” wrote Vasquez in an open letter titled Taking Identity Crime Victimization Seriously: A Call for Comprehensive Support.

“Victims are not at fault but rather targets of cunning criminals exploiting vulnerabilities in our increasingly digital world.”

Restoring and protecting your information and emotional well-being

The time-honored way to climb out of any disaster is to be proactive about your protection and restoration. That goes for the financial aftermath of any identity crime, and for resurrecting your emotional health and overall wellness.

Know what’s within your power — and what’s not — and take the wheel.   

  • Address the immediate concern. When you notice a problem (like a charge you never made or missing funds you never withdrew), call the related company and freeze your account to limit the damage. Change your sign-in credentials and turn on two-factor authentication (2FA). Check other accounts and follow suit if there are more breaches.  

  • Create an identity recovery plan. If you’re an Allstate Identity Protection member and you think you’re experiencing identity theft, call us as soon as possible using the number on your account dashboard. Our U.S.-based Customer Care team is available 24/7. If you’re not a member, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Identity Theft recovery site and use the site’s step-by-step process to generate a personalized recovery plan based on your situation.

  • Report the crime. Notify the FTC of the fraud and contact your local police department and report the crime to them as well.

  • Stay healthy as you weather the effects of identity theft. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issues guides that teach how to cope with traumatic events. “People can experience a wide range of emotions before and after a disaster or traumatic event,” SAMHSA literature notes. “There’s no right or wrong way to feel. However, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope when these events happen.” 

Quick Tips

Life after identity theft

Try these suggestions for self-care: 

  • Eat healthy and avoid depressants like alcohol 

  • Exercise even if that’s just a walk in your neighborhood 

  • Get solid sleep (no doom scrolling in bed allowed) 

  • Avoid making major life changes 

  • Accept there will be impacts but remind yourself you have safeguards in place as well as a recovery plan 

  • Set restoration boundaries. Establish how long you will work daily or weekly to restore your good name after an identity breach. Stay organized with a paper trail (real or electronic) of the steps you take. At the end of a restoration session, write down your next steps. Set a schedule for how often you will check your credit report and digital footprint.  

  • Speak out, get help, and seek therapy if the emotional impact of identity theft persists or worsens. If your condition deteriorates in such a way your daily life and ability to problem solve is affected, talk therapy via counselors and support groups might be the missing tools in your self-care toolbox.  

Additional resources for survivors of identity crimes

Whether you're an Allstate Identity Protection member or not, we want to make sure you're on the right path to recovery after identity theft.

These non-profits and government agencies offer a goldmine of assistance for survivors of identity crimes. Some help is logistical, while others offer help with the emotional impact of identity theft.