What to Do If Your Identity Is Found on the Dark Web
The very term sounds frightening - the dark web. Like the crevice under the stairs, the space at the back of the closet or the forbidding depths under the bed, the dark web is indeed a scary place.
There are no literal monsters lurking on the dark web, but some truly monstrous things are taking place there. The dark web is where pedophiles trade child pornography, where drug dealers find willing customers and where all manner of illegal goods and services change hands.
Just as frighteningly, the dark web is where personal information from Social Security Numbers and medical IDs to addresses and phone numbers, are traded back and forth. Some of that personal information ends up in the hands of identity thieves, while others is used to facilitate criminal activity.
Finding your own information on the dark web is beyond frightening, but what you do next can make all the difference. You should not panic if your bank or identity monitor alerts you to the situation - panic will do you no good and could be counterproductive. If you do find that your personal information has been compromised, here are some proactive steps you can take to limit the damage and protect your online reputation.
Change Passwords for Compromised Accounts
If you know which specific accounts have been compromised, change the passwords on those accounts right away. Make the new passwords as dissimilar as possible from the old ones, and update any accounts that use the same or similar credentials.
In many cases, you may not know where the personal information on the dark web came from, so you may need to update your logon credentials across the board. It may take some time, but this simple step can give you peace of mind while reducing the value of the compromised information.
Contact Your Credit Card Issuers
Your credit card issuers need to know about the compromise, especially if account numbers have been unveiled on the dark web. Once that information is on the dark web, it is impossible to call it back, but you can mitigate the damage.
Once you notify the issuers, you will probably be issued new credit cards with new account numbers. Be sure to destroy the old cards as soon as you receive the new ones.
Notify Your Bank
Having your personal information on the dark web could put your bank accounts, and your money at risk, so notify the bank about the breach as soon as possible. Most banks have dedicated fraud hotlines where customers can report suspicious activity and update their accounts with special alerts.
Once the bank has been notified, be sure to check your statements carefully. Look for any suspicious activity, including small debits and credits that could indicate unauthorized access. If you have set up online access to your bank accounts, change the passwords and security questions as well.
Check Your Credit File
You should be checking your credit files on a regular basis anyway, but having your information on the dark web can give you an extra nudge. Now is the time to check all three reports from the three credit reporting agencies, and you can do so for free by going to annualcreditreport.com.
Beware of scam sites that offer free credit reports but charge for ongoing credit monitoring and other services. You can sign up for those services if you wish, but you do not have to pay to view and review your credit file.
Freeze Your Credit Reports
If you want an extra sense of security, you can freeze your credit file in the wake of a security breach or dark web issue. Freezing your credit means no one, not even you, can initiate an inquiry or open a new account, and that can protect you from lurking identity thieves.
Keep in mind that freezing your credit report could make your life more difficult, especially if you are applying for a loan or shopping for a mortgage. You will need to weigh the pros and cons of a credit freeze before you proceed.
When you surf the web, you are only skimming the surface. Those millions of individual websites and online sellers are just the tip of the iceberg - there is a vast expanse underneath, a place of crime, hackers and illicit activity. Finding your information in such a dark place is frightening to say the least, but you can avoid much of the damage by being proactive and taking the steps listed above.
It is highly recommended that everyone who suspects their personal information has been compromised, obtain identity theft protection as soon as possible. There are several organizations that provide identity theft protection service to US residents. We have selected the best 3 protection plans allowing you to get protected immediately and for free for the first 30 days. Select the most suitable option for you below.
Consumers who have been targeted by scammers over the phone or the internet could have had their identity breached. It is highly recommended that everyone who suspects their personal information has been compromised, obtain identity theft protection as soon as possible. There are several organizations that provide identity theft protection service to US residents. We have selected 3 protection plans allowing you to get protected immediately and for free for the first 30 days. Select the most suitable option for you below.