Is Your SSN At Risk?
Enter your email address to see if your personal information is on the dark web.
Your nine-digit social security number (SSN) holds a great deal of significance to your financial life. Basically, it’s how you open your bank account, collect government benefits, apply for a new job, and use it for other purposes as part of your identity. Unfortunately, for the very same reason, it is also a highly sought-after target for criminals.
If you’ve found your SSN on the dark web, don’t freak out. The silver lining is – with nearly every American having their SSN compromised at least once in their life*, it’d be like hitting the jackpot for a criminal to specifically target yours out of the massive database. Yet still, there are 6 steps you should take to secure yourself against further breach and minimize the resulting damage.
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What does it mean when your SSN is found on the dark web?
An identity thief can steal your SSN in a variety of ways. Some rummage through the trash for personal documents and others gain unauthorized entry to your critical data by hacking into your accounts, planting malware in your system, and harvesting through data breaches. Most leaked SSNs will ultimately land on the dark web, where they are sold for as little as $4, according to research by Atlas.
The internet consists of three layers: the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web. The surface web is a collection of public-facing pages (like this one), and the deep web is mostly password-protected (such as your online banking page), with the latter constituting about 95% of the total internet. The dark web is a special subset of the deep web, hidden from conventional search engines but only accessible through a special browser (e.g. Tor, I2P).
The dark web is an unregulated part of the internet where everything is intended to be anonymous and untraceable. Given its heavy encryption nature, it has a sinister reputation for being the hub of black market activities, such as the illegal selling of personal, financial, and credit information. If your information, such as your SSN is found on the dark web, unfortunately, there’s virtually no way to get it removed.
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Finding your SSN on the dark web may not necessarily mean that your identity has already been abused at the miscreants’ free will but it is a warning sign that your personal information is compromised. With your SSN and a little bit of other information, an identity thief may impersonate you and exploit your identity in a wide range of ways such as:
- Opening a new bank account or credit card account
- Draining your bank account
- Getting a driver’s license
- Filing a fraudulent tax return
- Applying for a job
- Committing other fraud or crime of choice
which could damage nearly every aspect of your life, including your personal reputation and emotional well-being.
In this case, you should take active measures to mitigate potential damage.
What to do if your SSN or identity is stolen
1. Use an identity protection service
Identity theft is an ever-present threat. To protect yourself against it, there are some good cyber hygiene habits to get into: safeguard your SSN card, limit what you share online, be extra careful of the sites you visit, the emails you open, the files you download – the list could go on and on. But even the most cautious internet surfer is not immune from cyber-attacks.
If you don’t want to go with the DIY approach, perhaps you can consider Aura, an all-in-one identity protection service to give you 24/7 proactive protection against identity theft and fraud.
With Aura, you get:
- Dark web scan and monitoring: It isn’t just your SSN, but other types of PII such as your banking details, email passwords, online accounts, and address are also valuable targets to criminals. You can run a one-time dark web scan or start Aura’s real-time monitoring to check if your personal information is at risk.
- Credit monitoring – Auracontinuously monitors your credit reports from the three major credit agencies – TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, and alerts you if any unusual activity is detected.
- Password Manager – Weak, easily-guessable passwords may leave your accounts wide open to attack. Aura’s password manager helps you generate long, unique, and complex passwords without you having to remember them by yourself.
- Antivirus – The antivirus software gives you 24/7 protection from malware, ransomware, keyloggers, and more.
- VPN – The military-grade VPN gives you high levels of anonymity and privacy to browse, shop, and bank online.
- Family identity protection – The family plan provides identity protection for up to five family members.
- A $1,000,000 insurance policy – Aura’s insurance policy covers up to$1 millionfor eligible losses from identity theft.
Here is how to use Aura to run an in-depth dark web scan to see if your personal information has made its way to the dark web or other places where it shouldn’t be:
- Go to the Aura Free Scan page.
- Enter your email address and click View Results.
- Wait a few seconds as Aura scans the dark corners of the web to search for possible exposure of your personal data.
- You can start the 14-day free trial to access the full report, along with its full array of identity protection tools.
2. Place a credit freeze or fraud alert
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, restricts access to your credit report. It prevents anyone from accessing the credit report – not even you or anyone with the credentials. Any new requests for a loan or a new account in your name will be automatically declined, which effectively helps ward off prospective scammers from tarnishing your credit.
To freeze your credit report, you’ll need to contact each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus separately:
- Equifax: Call 1-800-349-9960 or place a security freeze online
- Experian: Call 1-888‑397‑3742 or freeze your credit file online
- TransUnion: Call 1-888-909-8872 or use a credit freeze online
One thing to note though: there will be some subsequent inconveniences. With the freeze in place, you won’t be able to apply for a new credit card or take out a loan yourself, unless you temporarily lift or remove the freeze.
A credit freeze lasts until you decide to remove it. Placing, temporarily lifting, or permanently removing a credit freeze is free, and none will have an effect on your credit score.
3. Place a fraud alert
If you believe your SSN turns up for sale on the dark web but don’t have any proof of it being fraudulently used, consider placing a fraud alert. A fraud alert will encourage lenders and creditors to contact you to verify before extending any credit. It will not block access to your credit report but it still provides an added layer of protection against identity fraud.
Fraud alerts are free and easy to set up. All you need to do is to contact one of the three nationwide bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – then the alert will apply to the other two.
- Equifax: Call 1-888-766-0008 or place Fraud or Active Duty Alerts online
- Experian: Call 1-888-397-3742 or add a fraud alert online
- TransUnion: Call 1-800-680-7289 or add a fraud alert online
A fraud alert lasts for one year and can be removed at any time. Neither action will affect your credit score.
4. Monitor your credit report & statements
Your credit report is a detailed account of your credit activity. It contains important information, such as active & closed credit accounts, payment history, credit inquiries, and the amount owned, which may lend itself to reflecting early signs of identity theft. The same applies to your financial and medical statements.
To request a free copy of your credit report, simply call 1-877-322-8228, or order it online at www.Annualcreditreport.com.
It’s important that you stay on top of your credit reports and statements – make sure you recognize every action you make and be vigilant. Any notice of new accounts you didn’t open, transactions you don’t recognize, bills for medical treatment you never received, and overdue bills may clue you in on potential SSN-related fraud.
5. Create a my Social Security account
my Social Security is the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) online portal. It provides you with easy access to a wide range of services and allows you to keep track of your estimated social security benefits. Since a my Social Security account is uniquely linked to a Social Security Number, you should create it yourself before identity thieves could get their hands on it and steal your benefits. To do so, simply head over to SSA My Account page, and follow the on-screen instructions to set up your account.
You won’t be able to create a my Social Security account if you’re on a credit freeze. To proceed, you should unfreeze your credit files.
6. Report the identity theft to authorities
As discussed, there are various ways an identity thief can do with your SSN, mostly to the detriment of your personal reputation and financial well-being. To prevent the ID thief from creating further problems, one last step you should take is to report your case to the authorities.
Here is how:
- Report identity theft to IdentityTheft.gov: Run by the Federal Trade Commission, IdentityTheft.gov is a federal-level one-stop resource for identity theft victims. To report your case, you can visit IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338 (meaning 1-877-IDTHEFT in T9 texting) or 1-866-653-4261. The FTC will then collect information about your situation and walk you through the recovery process.
- Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS): SSN theft may also be associated with tax identity theft where an identity thief files a fraudulent return to claim your refund. To combat tax-related identity theft, you should contact IRS by visiting IRS Identity Protection or calling 1-800-908-4490.
- File a police report: Last but not least, report the crime to your local jurisdiction. Provide as much information as you possibly can and it may help expedite your identity recovery.
Credit: Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik
By Enya Zhang
Enya is a writer at supereasy.com who spends most of her working hours scouring the web to find the best bargains and deals for her readers - a job that combines her two great loves: writing and shopping.She's an introextrovert who loves being out and about, hanging out with friends and exploring new things, but also enjoys staying home and unleashing her inner nerd - reading, getting hands-on with the latest tech, and binge watching clever TV shows and movies.
View all of Enya Zhang's posts.
What to do if your SSN was found on the dark web? ›
If you discover that your SSN is circulating on the Dark Web, immediately lock your Experian credit file from either the mobile or web app to prevent further damage.How much is a Social Security number worth on the dark web? ›
While your Social Security number (SSN) is still a valuable piece of information to identity thieves, it is not as valuable as login credentials. According to Privacy Affair's Dark Web Price Index, the current cost of a SSN on the dark web is $2.Can you remove your information from the dark web? ›
While you can't remove your info from the dark web once it's there, you can take steps to prevent anyone from leaking your identity or personal data in the first place: Use a password manager. Avoid public WiFi. Set up two-factor authentication.What happens if your SSN is exposed? ›
A dishonest person who has your Social Security number can use it to get other personal information about you. Identity thieves can use your number and your good credit to apply for more credit in your name. Then, when they use the credit cards and don't pay the bills, it damages your credit.Should I be worried if my information is on the dark web? ›
Criminals can use this information in a variety of ways, such as to impersonate you or create a fake identity using your Social Security number. They may even make a driver's license or medical insurance card using your information and then use the documents if they're arrested or want to get a medical procedure.What to do if your SSN has been used? ›
You may reach the FTC's identity theft hotline toll free at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338) or visit their website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Additional Resources: Protecting Your Social Security Number from Identity Theft.How much can I sell my SSN for? ›
Passport information sells for $62.61 on the dark web according to the Dark Web Index, while other proof-of-identity documents are running just under $30. A separate Experian estimate from 2017 has driver's licenses selling for $20 while, surprisingly, Social Security numbers can sell for as little as $1.Do people sell Social Security numbers on the black market? ›
“Social Security numbers and other national ID numbers are for sale on the dark web but aren't particularly useful to cybercriminals on their own.How much do people sell SSN for? ›
Basic stolen identity information on a US citizen, which only includes the Social Security number, full name and birth date, can range from $1 to $8 per person.What happens when your data is on the dark web? ›
Darknets use complex, layered encryption systems to keep their users' identities and locations anonymous. Exploiting this capability, Dark Web users communicate and share data confidentially, without being tracked by private companies or public organizations, including the government and law enforcement.
What happens if you google the dark web? ›
If you click on any links, you may be taken to material you might not want to see. It's also possible that clicking a link or downloading a file could infect your device with malware. Law enforcement. Law enforcement officials operate on the dark web to catch people engaged in criminal activity.Why is my personal info on the dark web? ›
Data can end up on the dark web in several ways, including through data breaches, using public Wi-Fi, visiting a nonsecure website, and leaving an offline paper trail. A cybercriminal may hack into company databases and take personal data, such as email account addresses, passwords, and phone numbers.How do I put a block on my Social Security number? ›
If you know your Social Security information has been compromised, you can request to Block Electronic Access. This is done by calling our National 800 number (Toll Free 1-800-772-1213 or at our TTY number at 1-800-325-0778).How do I know if my SSN is being used? ›
Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 1-800-908-4490 or visit them online, if you believe someone is using your SSN to work, get your tax refund, or other abuses involving taxes. Order free credit reports annually from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).Can I freeze my SSN online? ›
There are measures you can take to help prevent further unauthorized use of your SSN and other personal information. You can lock your SSN by calling the Social Security Administration or by creating an E-Verify account. Also, you can contact all three of the nationwide CRAs to place a freeze on your credit reports.Can you change your SSN? ›
To request a different Social Security number, contact your local Social Security office for an in-person appointment.Can I remove my email from dark web? ›
Create a separate email address you can use for logging in to unimportant accounts. If one of these less important sites experiences a data breach, your primary email won't be the one floating around on the Dark Web. You can simply scrap your secondary account and make a new one. Monitor your credit.Can you get in trouble entering the dark web? ›
Simply put, no it is not illegal to access the dark web. In fact, some uses are perfectly legal and support the value of the “dark web.” On the dark web, users can seek out three clear benefits from its use: User anonymity.Can someone access my bank account with my SSN? ›
Without additional information, no one could access your bank account with your Social Security number alone. In terms of bank security, you should worry about other things like a poor password, lack of two-factor authentication, and general carelessness when online banking.Can they cancel your SSN? ›
— No, your Social Security number cannot be suspended, revoked, frozen or blocked. It anyone tells you that, hang up immediately. — No government agencies — not the IRS, SSA or Medicare — will ask you to wire money, send cash or buy gift cards as a form of payment.
How can I find out if someone opened an account in my name? ›
The best way to find out if someone has opened an account in your name is to pull your own credit reports to check. Note that you'll need to pull your credit reports from all three bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — to check for fraud since each report may have different information and reporting.What do the first 3 digits of your Social Security mean? ›
The first three (3) digits of a person's social security number are determined by the ZIP Code of the mailing address shown on the application for a social security number. Prior to 1973, social security numbers were assigned by our field offices.How much is a Social Security check worth? ›
For reference, the average Social Security retirement benefit in 2023 is an estimated $1,827 a month.What can I buy with my SSN? ›
In addition to Social Security, the SSN is now also used for a wide range of purposes. These include obtaining credit, opening a bank account, obtaining government benefits or private insurance, and buying a home or a car, among many other pursuits.How much is an identity worth on the dark web? ›
Digital encryption should be a priority for anyone looking to safeguard their data, given how cheap personal information is sold in dark web marketplaces, according to a recent study.How do you know if you are victim of identity theft? ›
Regularly check your credit report and bank statements.
Check for the warning signs of identity theft — such as strange charges on your bank statement or accounts you don't recognize. An identity theft protection service like Aura can monitor your credit and statements for you and alert you to any signs of fraud.
Most valuable types of personal information
A Social Security number may sell for as little as $1. Credit card, debit card and banking info can go for as much as $110. Usernames and passwords for non-financial institution logins are $1, but it can range from $20 to $200 for login info for online payment platforms.
The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $3,627. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $2,572. If you retire at age 70 in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $4,555.Can SSN be sold? ›
But although they cut out general public access, these companies still sell your SSN (or part of it) to commercial firms of all kinds: private detectives, lawyers, banks, insurers, firms granting credit, debt collectors, phone companies, hospitals, insurers, law-enforcement agencies, employers.Can I buy a new SSN? ›
You can't change your Social Security number simply because your card has been lost or stolen, or to avoid bankruptcy or legitimate debts. The only other reasons Social Security will consider assigning a new number are: Sequential numbers assigned to members of your family are causing confusion.
What should you avoid on the dark web? ›
- Don't access forums in an unauthorized manner. ...
- Don't assume someone else's identity. ...
- Don't do research without a plan. ...
- Don't put your corporate network at risk.
Not everyone's data is on the Dark Web, but it's likely that you or your family have already been affected. However, this doesn't mean that hackers have access to your “fullz.” Most of the time, a few pieces of PII leak onto the Dark Web. Often, that's just a Social Security number.How serious is the dark web? ›
The dark web is a common gathering place for hackers and other cybercriminals, which can make browsing the dark web a risky activity. Visitors to the dark web should exercise extreme caution when downloading files, as they may infect your devices with viruses, malware, trojans, ransomware or other malicious files.What can you legally do on the dark web? ›
- Circumvent Government Censorship. ...
- Anonymous Email Services. ...
- Anonymous Collaboration With Journalists. ...
- Visit News Outlets. ...
- Contact the CIA Anonymously. ...
- Access to Academic Research. ...
- Use Ad-Free Search Engines. ...
- Secure Your Cryptocurrency Wallets.
Some of the more prevalent illicit activities include arms trafficking, drug dealing, and the sharing of exploitative content—often involving children—such as pornography and images of violence and other types of abuse. Websites support the rhetoric of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other extremist groups.Can people track you on the dark web? ›
An individual's internet activity can be tracked and monitored using their IP address. The 'Dark Web' uses complex systems that anonymise a user's true IP address, making it very difficult to work out which websites a device has visited.What if my email address is on the dark web? ›
What to Do if My Email Address is on the Dark Web? You can start by contacting your email provider and ask if your email address has been compromised. The best way to help protect yourself against these threats is to change your password and update all your software regularly.What happens when you freeze your Social Security number? ›
A “security freeze” blocks access to your credit unless you have given your permission. This can prevent an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name.Can someone open a credit card in my name without my Social Security number? ›
An identity thief would have to obtain personal details such as your name, birthdate and Social Security number in order to open a credit card in your name. However, it is a federal crime to do this, and it can result in jail time when the thief is caught for their behavior.Can you go to jail for not reporting income to SSI? ›
If you intentionally withhold information to continue to receive payments, you may face criminal prosecution. Criminal penalties can include fines and imprisonment.
Can you be tracked by your SSN? ›
Private investigators often subscribe to databases that match SSNs to public records; this combination of information sources can be used to locate individuals.Is it OK to give the last 4 digits of SSN? ›
Why the Last Four Digits of Your SSN Are So Important. The Social Security Number is not something you should give away. These numbers started being used back in 1936. Ever since they served as a way to verify someone's identity.Does your SSN ever expire? ›
Once you have an SSN, it will never expire. Even if your employment is discontinued or you leave the U.S. for a few years and return, you will keep the same number. It is very important that you do not share your SSN with anyone else, as this can lead to identity theft.What to do if SSN is found on dark web reddit? ›
Create a fraud alert.
Place a free fraud alert on your credit accounts by contacting any of the key credit agencies: Equifax , Experian or TransUnion. Consider placing a free credit freeze via the three credit agencies. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name.
To see if someone's using your SSN, check your credit report. You can check it online through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports. Or you can call their phone number at 1-877-322-8228 to request your free copy.Can police track you on the dark web? ›
Typical web browsers reveal their unique IP (Internet Protocol) address, making them traceable by law enforcement. But a dark web browser issues a false IP address, using a series of relays, to mask the user's identity. A significant portion of dark web activity is lawful.How much is someone's information on the dark web? ›
Personal information from US citizens found on the Dark Web—ranging from Social Security numbers, stolen credit card numbers, hacked PayPal accounts, and more—is worth just $8 on average, according to a new report from tech research firm Comparitech.How do you check if your SSN is being used? ›
Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 1-800-908-4490 or visit them online, if you believe someone is using your SSN to work, get your tax refund, or other abuses involving taxes. Order free credit reports annually from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).How do you know if your personal information is on the dark web? ›
If your data is available on the dark web, one of the easiest ways to find out is to check the “Have I Been Pwned” (HIBP) website. It's a free service, and all you have to do is conduct a search using your email address or phone number.How do you put an alert on your social security number? ›
Contact one of the three credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Equifax, or Experian). You can call or email, but we recommend you use the online reporting options each service makes available. After a few days, check with the other two credit bureaus to verify that they've received the fraud alert as well.
How do I freeze my Social Security number for identity theft? ›
If you know your Social Security information has been compromised, you can request to Block Electronic Access. This is done by calling our National 800 number (Toll Free 1-800-772-1213 or at our TTY number at 1-800-325-0778).Can someone access my bank account with my Social Security number? ›
Without additional information, no one could access your bank account with your Social Security number alone. In terms of bank security, you should worry about other things like a poor password, lack of two-factor authentication, and general carelessness when online banking.Can you check someone SSN online? ›
One way to check an employee's SSN is to register with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and sign up for SSNVS, a free online service. SSNVS allows users to verify one to 10 names and SSNs at a time. If you choose this option, you will receive the results immediately.Can police see you through your phone? ›
Thanks to the Fourth Amendment, the police cannot search your phone without a warrant. The police are allowed to ask you to unlock your phone and hand it over, but you have the right to decline this request. However, a police officer can take your phone as evidence, even without a warrant.What are the dangers of dark web? ›
The dark web is a common gathering place for hackers and other cybercriminals, which can make browsing the dark web a risky activity. Visitors to the dark web should exercise extreme caution when downloading files, as they may infect your devices with viruses, malware, trojans, ransomware or other malicious files.What can police look at on your phone? ›
The cops might have access to any accounts your phone was logged into, this means they may have read personal communication, noted your personal accounts including email addresses, social media account names to follow, sent messages or made posts using your log in.