Financial stress in the workplace often comes directly from worries about the unexpected: job loss, surprise expenses or injuries. Identity theft and fraud are becoming an increasingly common source of financial worry for employees.
According to a recent survey from Bankrate, 41 million adults in the US have been a victim of identity theft and 49 million more know someone who has been victimized. This crime is sometimes unavoidable and recovering from it takes a serious toll, both emotionally and financially.
Here are some of the ways identity theft causes stress for employees and some steps employers can take to help educate their workers.
Financial stress from identity theft
The number of ways identity theft and fraud can happen are startling – from a parent running up debts in a child’s name to a stranger abusing personal information from a data breach – and once an employee is victimized, the financial stress sets in.
A recent survey reported by HSB showed that more than a third of Americans had been the victim of a cybercrime in the past year, including the hacking of their personal information and their data being held for ransom. In nearly a quarter of these incidents, the victim spent up to $5,000 of their own money repairing the damage, while more than half spent up to $500. In fact, $15 billion was stolen through identity fraud last year in the US alone. This sudden major expense causes extreme financial stress for victims, in addition to the emotional anxiety of having their information abused.
A long recovery means drawn-out stress
This stress is often prolonged, as victims of identity theft face a difficult path to recovery that doesn’t happen overnight. If an employee of yours had their identity stolen, they might have their checking account emptied, debt transferred onto a credit card in their name or a mortgage opened using their credit. Their recovery process could include getting a police report, filing an identity theft report, ordering their credit reports and requesting fraud alerts or security freezes, even dealing with debt collectors and loan servicers looking to collect payments for fraudulent accounts, all while having to keep a careful eye on every one of their financial accounts for the foreseeable future.
It can take years for a victim to restore their credit and finances, often without any sort of explanation for how they became a victim. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ most recent report claimed 68 percent of identity theft victims had no idea how the perpetrator got ahold of their personal information, leaving them still feeling vulnerable. If your workers are dealing with this kind of stress, whether it’s an ongoing abuse of their identity or paying thousands of dollars to restore the damage caused by fraud, the anxiety doesn’t go away once they arrive at work.
Steps for employers to take
Your employees would certainly appreciate your understanding if they’re facing these issues, but they can also use your help. Workers of all ages can be victims and the less familiar they are with digital security, the more at risk they’ll be. Educate your employees about good digital habits – like using strong, unique passwords for every account and reviewing accounts on a regular basis for fraud – that can be applied to both the workplace and their personal lives. We’ve already seen that regular reminders can help change your workers’ habits, so encourage them to change passwords frequently and stay on top of their financial accounts.
You can also talk about risks like computer viruses, phishing attacks and ransomware, all of which can be used to steal data in or out of the workplace. Prevention is a major part of protection against identity theft and the more your workers know, the more prepared they’ll be to react appropriately and manage the financial stress that accompanies this crime.
Your workers can’t make the right decisions if they don’t have the knowledge they need both before and after their identity has been abused. When financial stress hits, having a guide is helpful, which is why providing the right resources is one of your best options to assist them.