Maybe it’s happened to you before, or you know someone who dealt with it. Either way, you know you don’t want to deal with the headache of identity theft.
In some cases, identity theft is a targeted event – for example, a family member may take advantage of a shared last name and use your information. Other times, victims are chosen at random based on how much person information a hacker can steal, use, or sell.
When it affects you or someone close to you, it can take a while to clean up the mess of fraudulent activity – and if it’s not caught early, your credit score can take a serious hit. Most of us don’t really consider how our information is stolen, though, and your personal details could be floating around on the dark web right now.
What Is The Dark Web?
The dark web is a part of the internet that’s hard to reach because the information there is not shared or picked up by search engines. It’s called the dark web because it’s where hidden websites reside. Many of those websites are accessed by buyers and sellers of Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and more. The criminals who buy or sell this information mask their own online identities using encrypted connections.
To obtain the most valuable segments of people’s information, criminals often go after large businesses that store your personal details, passwords, and more. When full names, passwords, addresses, and Social Security numbers are combined from those data breaches, criminals are able to steal identities.
Protecting yourself means staying vigilant, being careful about where you store information, and conducting regular checks of the websites you visit. You can take the following steps to increase the chances of keeping your identity safe:
Create Strong Passwords
You should already know not to use “password” for any accounts. It’s best if you use a phrase or sentence, and mix up letters, numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase to get the strongest passwords for your accounts. Change them often, especially if you suspect any fraudulent activity or hear of a data breach.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
Keep a close eye on your credit to make sure no one else is piggybacking on your name and credit.
Check Your Bank And Credit Card Statements
Be sure to monitor your monthly statements for any suspicious charges or purchases. If you see something that doesn’t look quite right, contact your financial institution to get it resolved as soon as possible.
Run A Dark Web Scan
If you think your information may be lurking in the dark web, consider using a dark web scan tool like Experian’s to see if your personal details were compromised in a data breach.
Take Control If Needed
For better peace of mind, consider a tool like CreditLock, which will let you lock your credit file, so no one can open anything in your name with your personally identifiable information.
It’s also a good idea to run a thorough background check on yourself to dig a little deeper. From there, you can see if someone has used your name to buy a car, a house, or opened other accounts in your name.