Everyone’s heard of identity theft; when someone takes your personal, financial, or identifying information and uses it online or in a criminal manner. That’s why you’ve started religiously shredding your monthly bills, you bring in your mail quickly, and make sure that your personal information (like your PIN) is protected. You’re informed, and you’re educated. Right? Unfortunately, even the most careful individuals find their information available occasionally when it comes to information on the dark web.
What is the Dark Web?
The dark web is considered the most controversial and dangerous portion of the internet. While many portray the dark web as a place where criminals, drug lords, and evil-doers congregate, there’s plenty of tame reasons people visit. That’s because the dark web requires a particular browser called Tor to access the servers. All servers are encrypted, keeping the search history completely anonymous. It also prevents a user’s location from being identified as well. It’s this anonymous cloak that attracts many, whether it’s for social networking or illegal activities.
What’s on the Dark Web?
In a word, everything. The dark web is often known for its questionable content and with good reason. Studies have shown that approximately 15.4% of all pages online relate to drugs, another 9% of the web activity relates to fraud, and 4.25% relates to hacking. Despite popular belief, gun sales only account for 1.4% of the dark web. With the majority of the dark web pertaining to identity theft, knowing how to potentially find your information and protect your identity is essential.
How Much is My Identity Worth?
Truthfully, not much. Most accounts will sell for pennies on the dollar, with the average grouped identity (including SSN, address, statements, name, and other personal information) being sold for approximately $30. Users with minimal money or accounts aren’t immune to theft either. Often, buyers will purchase an individual’s identity to create new accounts instead of stealing from current accounts. Bank accounts with transferrable balances over $3,000 can be purchased for only $146. It’s often considered supply and demand for the dark web, with virtually everyone’s information having a price.
Can I find who stole my information?
Probably not. Tor works by creating anonymity through multiple servers. Police enforcement cannot track IP addresses (giving the individual’s physical location), making finding anyone on the dark web almost impossible. Unfortunately, this also means that any of your personal information shared on the dark web is available for purchase without any possible way of tracing.
How Can I find if my data has been shared?
While knowing your information could potentially be sold on the dark web is terrible enough, finding out whether it’s been posted is another story. If you’d like to find out whether your data has been shared, consider the following five tips.
1) Visit the Dark Web
Deciding to visit the dark web probably isn’t for the faint at heart, especially if running into illegal activities isn’t your thing. On top of that, most fraudulent activities like identity theft aren’t exactly shared on the home page. This option requires users to have the specified browser to gain access to dark web pages. It’s also crucial that users bring patience when browsing; with the servers bouncing the ping, it typically lags and performs slowly.
2) Perform a Personal Search
Trying to find your information doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply run a background check through a reputable company. Most websites will include a dark web check that browses the dark web on your behalf. If anything from your report shows up on the dark web, you’ll be notified immediately. It’s essential to find a company that includes this service in their fee for optimal peace of mind.
Although this service will typically charge for the report, it will cost much less than resolving identity theft down the road. A background check typically includes:
- A credit report.
- Personal verification.
- Employment scans.
- Social media profiles.
- Any dark web searches (among other results).
Having this information compiled into a singular report can save you time, energy, and resources.
3) Wait for your credit card company to notify you
Some credit card companies will include monthly, semi-annual, or annual scans of the dark web in their credit services. This service will send you an email if your information has been discovered on the dark web, typically with a contact phone number for more details. While this can be helpful for the average, uninformed consumer, it doesn’t usually give detailed information about what’s been shared online. Likewise, not every credit card company offers this service, potentially leaving you vulnerable and exposed. If you’re unsure whether your creditors include this service, give them a quick call to inquire.
4) Use a credit reporting company
Some credit reporting companies will offer dark web scans through their website. These scans are often basic and will only turn up a generic yes or no for the result without a subscription. Subscriptions are difficult to cancel, can be expensive, and require extensive personal information to complete. It’s essential to only use the credit reporting agency website for these services, as phishing websites commonly imitate credit reporting agencies. Using a phishing website can actually collect your information for the sole purpose of selling it.
5) Wait and see what happens
Probably the worst recommendation for consumers looking to safeguard their data from the dark web, wait and see is the option of doing nothing. This recommendation is for the gamblers of their personal identity. It’s for those who don’t mind having to deal with months of headaches. This method is for the people who’d like to try and recover from identity theft because their identity was bought from under them. Individuals that have had their data compromised will often not discover the details until it’s too late. You can report it to the FTC, but will wind up with having thousands of dollars worth of debt, collections, bills from other locations, and terrible credit can destroy a person’s self-worth.
Identity theft can impact a person’s life for years. While accounts are investigated, further debt can accumulate. Trying to prove your identity to proper authorities is never a fun experience. Remember, it’s easier to prevent than trying to recover from identity theft.