Can companies really find out if your stolen information is on the dark web? We looked deeper to find out.
You may have heard of the “dark web” or the “deep web” in one of the many fear-mongering news reports about the shady stuff going on there. Now, established companies like Experian are cashing in on this dark web scare and offering products that they claim can detect your information where online criminals have hidden it.
What is the “dark web”?
The dark web is a collection of hidden sites that can only be accessed if you have the right software. You may have heard this term before, along with the phrase “deep web.” The deep web is slightly different because although it is difficult for regular Internet-users to access, you don’t need special software to find it.
The dark web is a small part of the deep web where criminals store, publish or sell the personal information of their identity theft victims.
While the “surface web” is indexed for search engines, deep web sites won’t show up and dark web sites can’t even be accessed on regular browsers.
How does my information get on the dark web?
Identity thieves are criminals, and they have plenty of illegal ways to steal your personal info. Techniques like phishing, skimming, and good old-fashioned pickpocketing can lead to your identity living on the dark web. More advanced thieves can even stage a large data breach to access the information of millions. Once they have your data, cybercriminals will often resell your personal information via the dark web.
How do dark web scans work?
Products like Experian’s Dark Web Scan claim to search the dark web for your personal information so you can know if your personal info has been compromised by identity thieves. As some other review sites have pointed out, it’s literally impossible to scan the entire dark web. These scans, especially the free ones, only look at a small fraction of the trillions and trillions of dark web addresses that exist today. Paid scans aren’t much better.
What these dark web scan products are really doing is capitalizing on the public’s fear of identity theft and the unknown depths of the Internet.
How much does a dark web scan cost?
Experian’s initial dark web scan using only your email address, phone number, and Social Security number is free. After that, you can pay $10 per month (with a 30-day free trial) to have more in-depth dark web monitoring.
What can I do instead?
Many companies now offer programs that help you monitor your identity online. They will monitor your identity and if you do become a victim, you will be connected to experts who will help you resolve the issue. Most programs will also alert you if there is suspicious activity on your credit reports.
Debt.com has its very own identity theft protection. With three different plans to choose from and a wealth of identity-monitoring features, this is a better bet for your identity than just doing the Experian Dark Web Scan.
- Credit monitoring across all three credit bureaus
- Online identity monitoring
- Suspicious activity alerts
- Starting Cost: $18.98/month
All levels of LifeLock’s identity protection program include dark web scanning. You even have the option of adding on Norton Antivirus for your computer.
- Credit alerts and dark web monitoring
- Up to $25,000 reimbursement for stolen funds
- Credit monitoring for one bureau
- Starting Cost: $9.99/month
Credit Karma’s identity monitoring is similar to Experian Dark Web Scan because it scans the dark web for your email address. It also helps you if your identity is compromised.
- Alerts if your information on the dark web
- Instructions for taking action if your identity is compromised
- Identity theft updates and alerts
- Starting Cost: Free
Credit Sesame has a few different levels of identity protection. The first tier is completely free and comes with $50,000 of fraud insurance. It also updates your credit score monthly.
- Monthly credit score updates
- $50,000 fraud insurance
- Credit monitoring alerts
- Starting Cost: Free
Tips for Preventing Identity Theft
It may sound depressing, but the best thing you can do is assume that your personal information has already been stolen by someone on the dark web. Your social security number, credit card numbers, bank accounts, and other sensitive information are likely already part of someone’s illegal activity. Here are some things you can do that can help you protect your identity as much as you can:
Checking your credit reports
It’s a good idea to check your credit reports as often as possible. This will ensure that if anyone has been using your name for credit, you will know as soon as possible. You can check your report from each of the three main credit bureaus for free once per year.
Being mindful of your private information
Your information is precious, and you should treat it that way. Your credit cards, Social Security card, and even medical records should all be stored safely.
Freezing your credit reports
If you’re really concerned your identity has been stolen, you can freeze your credit reports by contacting all 3 major credit agencies.
If you are already a victim…
Take action quickly. Put a fraud alert on all 3 of your credit reports so the credit bureaus and lenders know there could be criminal activities going on. On IdentityTheft.gov, you can report the theft and get a personalized recovery plan.
Article last modified on September 28, 2021. Published by Debt.com, LLC