It comes as a shock to find your private information has been stolen or used in some kind of criminal activity.
Yet it happens to millions of people. More than a third of Americans have been victims of credit card fraud. And at least 60 percent of US Social Security numbers have been stolen at some time.
More often than not, when these things happen, criminals sell this data on the dark web.
You may wonder, what is this “dark web” place? How do you get there and what do you do if you find your data on the “dark web market”?
We’re here to help you figure all of this out.
So, what is the Dark Web?
The dark web is a loose term for websites dealing in illicit material or facilitating illegal activity. Among the things on offer are stolen financial data, forged identification documents, hacking services, money laundering facilities, and much else.
For instance, as of June 2022, credit card details for an account with a balance of up to $5,000 cost $120 on the “dark web market”, while the going rate for a US driver’s license was around $160.
How do You Know that Your Data is on the Dark Web?
It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever visit any dark web site. They’re not indexed by search engines and can only be found using special apps designed to give access to them.
There are other ways you will discover that your private data is on one of these sites:
- You find out you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft.
- You’re informed by your bank or credit card company, some of which monitor the dark web for their customers’ financial data.
- You subscribe to a monitoring service that tells you when anything connected to you has appeared on the dark web.
So, you’ve just discovered that your credit card details are for sale, or someone is using your Social Security number. What do you do next?
5 Steps to Take If You Find Your Data on the Dark Web
#1. Secure your money
So, what’s the favorite target of cybercriminals? Your wallet, of course. The first thing you want to do when you find your data on the dark web is put a freeze on all your accounts.
Check to see if any of your money has been stolen, or if anyone has taken out a loan in your name. Check for any kind of suspicious activity on your bank accounts, credit card, PayPal accounts, etc.
You need to investigate any unexplained purchases or withdrawals and report them immediately to the financial institution in question.
Also, make sure your salary or any regular payments you receive haven’t been clandestinely diverted to another account.
#2. Freeze Your Credit
The last thing any of us wants is some stranger taking out a mortgage in our name.
Contact the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and have your reports frozen.
Once you do that, prospective creditors can’t check your report, so nobody can get credit in your name.
Your existing creditors can still access your report, and you can also view it if you wish to check your status. You can add a fraud alert to your report so that prospective lenders will require identity verification from anyone who tries to get credit.
#3. Contact Law Enforcement
You could be in for some nasty surprises if someone breaks the law while using your name.
So, it’s essential to inform the police that your data has been stolen and may be used illegally. Alert them to any possible identity theft. This will establish your innocence in the event of anyone committing illegal acts while assuming your identity.
They can check to see if anyone has been arrested or had any contact with law enforcement while impersonating you, e.g., driving with a license in your name.
#4. Secure Your Devices
Unfortunately, if any of your information is on the dark web, it could mean someone had access to your computer. To ensure there is no lurking cyber threat:
- Have all your devices checked for malware.
- Change all your passwords.
- Check all your email and social media accounts for any unauthorized activity carried out in your name.
- Ensure the future safety of your computer by encrypting your data and hiding your location with a VPN location changer.
Once you’re satisfied that everything is in order, you can resume your online activity with full peace of mind.
#5. Take Action On Identity Theft
When somebody has your private information such as your Social Security number, it opens up all kinds of possibilities. They could be working, getting medical care, or claiming government benefits in your name.
You should officially claim your Social Security number and identify yourself as its owner. To do this, log on to the US government identity theft site. Here you can report any theft of your data.
This will alert the authorities to any attempts to impersonate you, e.g., someone filing tax returns or claiming benefits in your name.
If you find your private information on the dark web, the most important thing is not to panic. You’re not alone.
Millions of people have their information stolen and sold. Banks, credit card companies, and government agencies are all used to dealing with it.
It’s a very serious issue, and you have to deal with it in a timely manner.
Follow the steps we shared to secure your finances and inform the government that you’ve become a victim of cyber theft.
Provided you did nothing to endanger your private data, you won’t be held accountable for any theft, and you’ll be compensated for financial loss.
By taking the steps outlined above, you’ll minimize any damage or inconvenience caused by having your information sold on the dark web.