What Is the Dark Web and How to Protect Against Identity Theft
Understanding what it is and what you can do to stay safe
Everyone deserves to feel confident about their finances. But fraud is a huge problem that can undermine your financial confidence and cost you a lot of money. In 2017 alone, there were 1.1 million fraud reports costing Americans more than $900 million.
Just as understanding credit scores can be confusing, intimidating, and costly, many people don’t know where to start when it comes to protecting themselves against fraud. It feels vulnerable: how do I know if something about me is out there, and what do I do to get it back?
What is a public breach and why should I care?
A public breach is when a company loses personal information that they were supposed to control and keep safe. After investigation, the company is required to notify those who were impacted. Last year, there were a total of 5,207 breaches worldwide, impacting 7.89 billion data records.
Why does this happen?
Often times, consumers’ personal information is stolen from companies for profit. This stolen information can be sold and used to open accounts in your name or make purchases using your login credentials. But hackers aren’t the only ones responsible. Sometimes companies just accidentally expose information where anybody with the web address can access it.
Does it happen to everybody? No, but you should care because two out of three Americans are worried about having their identity stolen.
Have you heard of the dark web?
Like public breaches, information leaked on the dark web is lost by a company and made available for others. The difference: dark web breaches are not made public. This is generally the result of an ongoing investigation of a breach or uncertainty about where the personal information came from. For example, Panera Bread and Saks Fifth Avenue both announced they may have lost customer information, but what exactly was lost and who was impacted has not yet been made public.
There are now tools that help you monitor the dark web for free. Just do a Google search for dark web monitoring free and check them out.
This information on the dark web is hard to track down and the potential consequences of not knowing are too dire. Login credentials are typically the most popular pieces of information found which is why it’s important to be aware and take action to protect yourself if necessary.
The higher your score, the more vulnerable you are
Fraud might not affect everyone equally. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to have lost account password(s). No one is exactly sure why this is the case, but here are two potential explanations:
Older individuals tend to have higher credit scores and longer internet histories. If somebody has been active on the internet for 20 years they are more likely to have more accounts, which increases exposure.
Hackers might disproportionately seek information from services that have members with higher credit scores. When information is illegally sold, there is more value to an individual with a higher credit, so it would be in the hacker’s best interest to target their effort.
While these are only guesses, the answer might be a combination of the two or something else.
How can you defend yourself?
While these statistics may have you more scared than you were five minutes ago, there is plenty you can do to help. Regularly monitor your credit and identity for free using one of the many tools out there for you. Combined, these tools help keep you informed about how exposed you are and if your financial health is at risk. And if you're looking for hyper-specific ways to boost your credit score, our our recent blog post is a must-read.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud already, you can visit the FTC’s guidance on the best next steps.
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