Cybercrime; The Emotional Impacts

Image result for CybercrimeCyber criminals are stealing more than money and data; they are also taking peace of mind from millions of victims in the UK every year. With 99 percent of online fraud and crime taking a financial toll, victims often suffer from physical and mental trauma and depression.

Emotional Impact Causes Stress

In 2015, hackers targeted a website for those participating in extra-marital affairs. The data from more than thirty-two million Ashley Madison website users was leaked. Four victims committed suicide, one from the threat of exposure. This is a stark example of the growing problem that leaves victims grappling with how to handle the emotional cost of cybercrime from invasion of privacy to fear of financial ruin.

In the case of the Ashley Madison website, the target was not money. The goal was to shut the site down. The group taking responsibility for the hack identified as hacktivists, who take on a cause by using hacking as a tool. Still, the cybercrime was just as hurtful to its victims.

According to a recent study, the emotional impact of cybercrime is often relative to the amount of money lost in comparison to an individual’s net worth. A rich victim would feel less emotional distress about losing less than 100 pounds, than a poor person. However, if a rich person lost a significant amount of his or her net worth, they’d likely experience similar feelings of stress.

Certain online scams require that the scammer build a relationship with the victim. Romance scams, advance free fraud, and rental scams are a few examples of scams that require the fraudster to interact with the victim to gain his or her trust before betraying it. These crimes are particularly brutal on the victim, leaving in its wake feelings of insecurity and devastation. The emotional manipulation is coupled with financial theft, increasing the sense of loss.

Steps Toward Recovery

There are several ways to provide support to victims of online crime. Like most people working through trauma, having a friend to listen is always helpful and can relieve some of the uneasiness. Emotional problems can last well after the scam is over. Healing takes time, so don’t judge. Some successful therapies involve changing the victim’s perception by viewing the experience as a lesson that helps in learning how to better protect his or her financial and other interests.

A victim may feel more of an emotional impact beyond the theft of data, if personal or financial data is used. Help to minimize opportunities for repeat victimisation by considering a credit freeze, changing the way that you interact online, and keeping your computer secure with the latest updates and anti-virus software.

Most Brits will not be victims of cybercrime, but for the small percentage that find themselves experiencing the traumatic emotional roller coaster that accompanies these online breaches of trust, you will recover. Take the important steps in emotional recovery by limiting chances for re-victimisation. Stay proactive in protecting your information. Be a champion for those whose lives have been upended by reporting suspected cybercrime to the proper authorities and posting fraud alerts online to help others avoid this experience.