Picture this: you get a call from the bank where they ask about some recent account activity. The speculation is that the account may have been used fraudulently. They launch an investigation, and you begin the roller coaster ride of emotions like denial, fear, embarrassment, anger, rage and hopelessness.
It may sound like the plot of a movie; unfortunately it is not. It is the reality of the victims of identity theft. It is what a majority of us go through after discovering that our accounts and information have been compromised.
Why does it cause so much trauma? Because it is difficult to return to ‘being normal’ after filing a report against the unknown perpetrators. At such times, we can only wish that we had foreseen the possibility and done what we could have to prevent it. We might also ask ourselves why we didn’t purchase identity theft insurance. While identity theft insurance doesn’t cover your lost funds or damage to your credit, it can help offset the expense of repairing your financial well-being. Coverage through some companies even provides recovery services to help you deal with contacting your financial institutions, credit bureaus, and others. Some will even provide emergency cash advances to help with expenses during your time of loss and stress.
Five Steps for Active Stress Management in the Face of Identity Theft
The first thing required for stress management is acknowledgment. Acknowledgment that a crime has been committed. Acknowledgment that like the innocent victims of any crime, those who fall prey to identity theft also have the right to feel sad, angry and overwhelmed.
The process of recovering from the incident can begin after we allow ourselves to feel stressed about the crisis. So here they are – the five steps that help manage the stress that follows identity theft:
Recognizing Emotions and Understanding Them
Stress changes us. It makes us vent our anger, even rage upon our friends and family, hurting them in the process. Recognizing emotions and understanding where they are coming from is the key to keeping calm. We need to question ourselves if the feelings of annoyance, irritation or vexation have been creeping up in us. They can be caused by deep-seated stress and fear. They are not the result of provocation from family members. So it is important to fully understand the situation and analyze what we are feeling, before taking the second step.
Looking for Support in Friends and Family
Isolation from family and friends can aggravate the situation and increase the stress of which we are experiencing. Spending time with friends and family, sharing concerns and seeking comfort in their company is a good way to deal with the stress of identity theft. Making time for family events (yes, despite the recent incident) can accentuate the positive things in life and help reduce the tension.
Ardently Pursuing Happiness
Pursuing happiness through external means is another good way to deal with the stress that can be caused by identity theft. A happy mind resides in a happy body. So it is important to eat healthy and exercise regularly. Exercising also increases the ‘feel-good’ hormones in blood, alleviating mood instantly. Pampering the body and mind, say through a massage or by reading a good book on a day of rest beats stress as well.
Taking preemptive steps and following preventive measures helps regain a sense of control and shakes away helplessness, thereby reducing stress. The top things to do to control the situation are to:
- Talk to banks and other lenders – One of the biggest fears at this point is the safety of the compromised information. Asking banks, credit card companies and other lenders how they plan to tackle the crime and prevent further mishaps from happening will help remove fear and restore faith of getting things under control.
- Safeguard credit reports – Contacting credit bureaus for security freeze or fraud alert prevents identity theft from damaging credit scores. Bureaus are also able to guide about data security and best-practices to be adopted for prevention of such crimes in the future.
Seeking the Help of Professionals
Knowing when to turn to a professional for stress management is the final step in dealing with the stress that follows identity theft. Talking to someone who has experience in helping identity theft victims (whether it is the local pastor, a stress counselor or a psychiatrist) can be beneficial at this stage.
Stress is called a silent killer, and not without a good reason. Recognizing, understanding and talking about feelings is only one part of dealing with the stress caused by identity theft. Taking hard steps to prevent damage is the other part. Securing the right identity theft insurance can make all the difference.