Call for Help: Examining the antecedents of Social Support Seeking Among Victims of Cybercrime

The increase in cyber crimes leads to a rise in the number of victims of this type of crime. The number of victims only keeps increasing over time, and the consequences are significant. These crimes, such as fraud, identity theft, hacking, and more, are those rare crimes where victims must go through a long process by themselves to find justice. This lengthy process involves contacting the institutions concerned (i.e., banking institutions or government agencies), the police, and credit agencies in many cases. Victims often reported experiencing stress, feelings of depression, fear, sadness, and embarrassment (Cross & coll., 2016b; Kaakinen & coll., 2018). In short, it is undeniable that being a victim of cybercrime is an alarming and destabilizing situation. Studies on the subject have found that it is beneficial in restoring the harm to get help and support from others. However, very few people seem to seek help from family or friends after being the target of a computer attack.

The present study carried out by researchers De Kimpe & al. (2020) seeks to understand support-seeking behaviours, specifically for computer crime victims. Although it is challenging to access victims’ privacy and know whether they have resorted to informal help, such as family or friend support, the study used relevant literature indicators using self-reported data.

Specifically, the study considered the role of (1) perception (perceived severity and perceived control), (2) primary responses (guilt and denial), and (3) social capital (available and trusted people). Additionally, researchers explored the connection between fear of cybercrime and this victim history. They collected 334 questionnaires completed by victims of cybercrime.

Main results of the study:

  1. Of the total victims in the study (N = 334), only 46.4% (N = 155) sought help from someone they trusted for support or advice.
  2. Victims with a high perception of control are less likely to request support.
  3. Victims with high levels of personal guilt or “self-blame” are more likely to seek help.
  4. Fear of cybercrime is positively linked to personal guilt.

The researchers noted that even if the terms of the study are well defined, participants may omit certain information due to a poor understanding of the problem. Also, participants in this type of research may have been victimized multiple times but still count as one participant in the study. Future studies should consider taking into account the number of victimizations per participant.

It is relevant to note that a longitudinal approach should be used to obtain results with greater scope. This would allow us to see whether people ask for help or observe more pronounced trends over the long term. Moreover, there are multiple limitations when it comes to using self-revealed victimization data In addition to its empirical contribution to a subject little researched to date, the study expands knowledge and broadens the focus on help-seeking and support to cybercrime victims. The authors postulate that it would be relevant for future prevention and awareness campaigns to stress the importance of seeking help and, above all, of avoiding blaming the victim.

To cite: De Kimpe, L. Ponnet, K. Walrave, M., Snaphann, T., Pauwels, L. & Hardyns, W. (2020).  Help, I need somebody: Examining the antecedents of social support seeking among cybercrime victims. Computers in Human Behavior, 108.