Your Social Security number (SSN) is one of your most important identifiers. It allows the government to track your income, and it’s useful when opening accounts, claiming benefits, and more.
Your SSN is valuable to hackers and identity thieves because of the amount of information they can get from it. They can either use it themselves or sell it on the dark web. But what could happen if your SSN gets on the dark web?
It might be impossible to remove it from there altogether, but there are certain measures you can take to minimize your exposure.
Below, we give you a few tips on how you can keep your SSN off the dark web. Plus, we’ll teach you a little bit about the dark web and how you can check if you have information on it.
We searched the web for reliable sources on the dark web and cyber security and sought expert insights.
The last thing you want is to leave yourself vulnerable to identity theft. So, keep reading until the very end to find out the best thing you can do when your SSN ends up on the dark web.
5 steps to take if your Social Security number is found on the dark web
If you find out that your SSN is on the dark web, then your personal information has most likely already been compromised.
Follow these steps to minimize the damages that identity thieves may cause.
1. Change your passwords
If you use the same password for multiple accounts, now’s the time to change it.
Hackers who have your Social Security number may also have your passwords, so it’s important to create new, strong passwords for all of your accounts.
A strong password is difficult to guess and contains a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Avoid using easily guessed words like “password” or easily accessible personal information like your birthdate.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a strong password, consider using a password manager to generate and store passwords for you.
2. Check your credit report
When you’re done changing your passwords, the next thing you should do is check your credit report.
Look for any unusual activity, such as new accounts or charges you don’t recognize. If you see anything suspicious, contact the credit bureau and file a dispute.
3. Place a fraud alert on your credit file
This will notify creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft and make it more difficult for thieves to open new accounts in your name.
To place a fraud alert, you’ll need to contact one of the nationwide credit reporting companies and provide proof of your identity, such as a copy of your driver’s license or passport.
The company will then share the information with the other two credit reporting companies and add an alert to your file.
Once the alerts are in place, businesses will be required to verify your identity before granting credit.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can also place an extended fraud alert on your credit file, which lasts for seven years.
However, extended fraud alerts are only available to victims who have filed a police report or identity theft affidavit.
4. Consider a credit freeze
A credit freeze prevents new creditors from accessing your credit report, which makes it more difficult for them to open new accounts in your name.
There are a few things to keep in mind, though:
- It can take a few days for the credit freeze to take effect.
- You’ll need to unfreeze your account if you want to apply for new credit. So if you’re planning on applying for a loan or a new credit card, you’ll need to plan ahead
- There’s a small fee associated with freezing and unfreezing your account
To place a freeze on your credit report, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Each agency has its own process for placing a freeze, so be sure to follow their instructions carefully.
Once your credit report is frozen, you’ll still be able to use your existing accounts and apply for new ones. However, you may need to provide additional identification to do so.
5. Monitor your existing accounts closely
Even if you take steps to protect your credit, it’s important to keep a close eye on your existing accounts—including your bank account, credit card statements, and utility bills.
Constant vigilance. This is the most crucial step you can take if your SSN does end up on the dark web.
Look for any unusual activity, such as charges you don’t recognize or withdrawals from your account that you didn’t make. If you see anything suspicious, contact your bank or credit card company right away.
Tips to keep your Social Security number and personal information away from hackers
Prevention is always better than cure. These tips below will help you avoid the hassle of dealing with having your SSN on the dark web altogether.
Be careful about giving out your Social Security number.
One of the best ways to protect your Social Security number is to be careful about giving it to someone else.
You shouldn’t carry your Social Security card with you, and you should only give out your number when absolutely necessary.
When in doubt, ask why they need it and whether there’s another way to verify your identity.
Keep an eye on your mail
Identity thieves can steal your mail to get your financial information.
If you start noticing that you’re not receiving bills or other mail that you normally get, it could be a sign that someone has your Social Security number.
Be cautious about email and social media
Identity thieves can also use email and social media to try to scam you. They might send you fake emails or messages that look like they’re from a company you know in an attempt to get your personal information.
Never click on links or attachments from someone you don’t know, and be careful about what information you share on social media.
Protect your computer with security software
Identity thieves can also steal your information by accessing your computer or mobile device. That’s why it’s important to have security software installed and to keep it up-to-date.
Shred personal documents
Identity thieves can also get their hands on your personal information by going through your trash or recycling bin.
That’s why it’s important to shred any documents that contain your Social Security number, such as old tax returns or medical bills.
Enable two-factor authentication
When two-factor authentication is enabled, a code is required in addition to your username and password to log in.
This code is usually sent to your phone via text message, so even if someone knows your password, they won’t be able to access your account without also having your phone.
Many major online services (including Google, Facebook, and Twitter) now offer two-factor authentication, so there’s no excuse not to enable it.
It only takes a few minutes to set up, and it could save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Even if you take all the necessary precautions, it’s important to stay vigilant about protecting your Social Security number.
That means keeping an eye on your credit report and monitoring your accounts for any unusual activity.
If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a report. You can also get in touch with your local police department.
How your data ends up on the dark web
The dark web is a part of the internet that can only be accessed using special software. It isn’t indexed by search engines, making it difficult to find specific websites.
The dark web is often used for illegal activities, such as buying and selling drugs or weapons, money laundering, and even human trafficking. And yes, it’s also a rich marketplace for stolen information.
Personal data can end up on the dark web in a number of ways:
- Data breaches – When a hacker gains access to a company’s customer database, they can sell this information on the black market.
- Phishing scams – Phishers will send out emails that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or online retailer. The email will contain a link that leads to a fake website designed to collect personal information. Once the phisher has this information, they can sell it on the dark web.
- Malware – Malicious software can be installed on a victim’s computer without their knowledge and used to collect sensitive information, such as login credentials and credit card numbers. This information can then be sold on the dark web.
While the dark web may seem like an inaccessible place, personal data can end up there quite easily. Protecting yourself from these threats is essential to keeping your information safe.
How to check if your information is on the dark web
Given its secretive nature, it can be difficult to know if your information has been compromised and is being shared on the dark web. However, there are a few steps you can take to check.
- Use a search engine designed for the dark web, such as The Onion Router (TOR). These search engines index sites on the dark web, making them much easier to find.
- Check whether your email address or password has been leaked by visiting haveibeenpwned.com. This site collects data from data breaches and makes it available to the public.
- Monitor your credit report for any changes or unusual activity. If you notice anything suspicious, it may be an indication that your information has been compromised.
These steps can help to protect yourself from identity theft and other risks associated with the dark web.
What are the consequences of having your SSN on the dark web?
Having your Social Security Number (SSN) on the dark web can have several consequences. Perhaps the most obvious is that it can lead to identity theft.
If someone has your SSN, they can use it to open new credit lines or apply for loans in your name. This can ruin your credit score and leave you with thousands of dollars in debt.
Your stolen SSN can also be used to file fraudulent tax returns, and even obtain medical care. In addition, your SSN may be sold multiple times on the dark web, which can make it difficult to regain control of your personal information.
Furthermore, having your SSN on the dark web can also make you a target for spear phishing attacks. These are emails or other messages that appear to be from a trusted source but are actually from criminals who are trying to gather personal information.
Finally, if your SSN is on the dark web, it means that it’s also probably floating around on the regular internet as well. This means that anyone who knows where to look could potentially find it and use it to take over your financial life.
How much does a Social Security number on the dark web cost?
The price of a stolen SSN on the Dark Web can vary depending on several factors, such as the country of origin, whether it includes additional information (such as credit card numbers or addresses), and how recently it was stolen.
However, a recent study found that the average price of a stolen SSN on the Dark Web is $1.03. This means that your personal information could be sold for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.
Of course, the price is only part of the equation. The real cost of having your SSN on the dark web is the potential damage that could be done with it.
For example, if your SSN is used to open new lines of credit in your name, the damage to your credit score could take years to repair. And if your SSN is used to file a fraudulent tax return, you could end up owing the IRS a lot of money.
The Dark Web is a dangerous place, and if your Social Security Number is found on it, it could have serious consequences. However, by taking some simple steps, you can help to protect yourself from identity theft and other risks.
If you think your SSN may have been compromised, use a search engine designed for the dark web to check, and consider monitoring your credit report for any changes. You should also be aware of the potential spear phishing attacks that could come your way.
By taking these steps, you can help to keep yourself safe from the dangers of the dark web.