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The psychology of cybercrime
The psychology of cybercrime

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3.1 Impact of cybercrime on victims and coping strategies

It is important to add that for certain types of cybercrime, the victimisation is multi-faceted. For instance, while the negative impact of online fraud on the victims might appear to be solely financial, a study by Button et al. (2014) found that in addition to financial hardship, some victims might experience negative effects on their mental health, physical health and personal relationships. Whitty and Buchanan (2012; 2016) argue that victims of online dating romance scams suffer a ‘double hit’, as they suffer the loss of a relationship as well as experiencing financial loss. The survey conducted by Buchanan and Whitty (2014) showed that there are large individual differences in the degree of emotional distress reported by victims, and they found that sometimes emotional distress was high even where there was no financial loss. More in-depth interviews with a small number of victims identified that people who had lost money to online romance scams reported greater distress at the loss of their relationship than their money. Their distress was exacerbated by a lack of social support, with some victims reporting that they experienced anger and blame from family and friends.

The literature has identified the following consequences on cyber-victimisation:

  • Social withdrawal/anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Obsessive behaviours
  • Loss of confidence
  • Reduction in self-esteem.
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain/stomach problems
  • Eating disorder
  • Sleep disorder
  • Not feeling safe
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide tendencies
  • Feeling helpless
  • Panic attacks
  • Mistrust of others

(Låftman et al., 2013; Sourander et al., 2010; Schneider et al., 2012; Bates, 2017)

An image of a person looking at a computer tablet.

Similarities in coping strategies for victims of cybercrime were also found, with victims initially tending to turn to negative coping strategies such as alcohol use and avoidance, before engaging with more positive approaches such as seeking counselling and undertaking advocacy work. However, with cybercrime directed at the person, the issue of victim blaming is important to consider, drawing more specifically on research into public attitudes towards sexual violence that place the blame for onto the victims.