Criminals who obtain an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII) may share it or sell it online using the dark web. Many companies offer dark web scans that will search the dark web for your information and alert you if they find anything. But it’s important to remember the limitations of dark web scans and know that not all dark web searches are created equal.

What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web is a part of the internet that cannot be found using search engines like Google and requires the use of an anonymous browser to access. Encryption tools make it possible for websites to hide the identity and origin of their creators as well as the identity of users that visit the dark web.

There are many legitimate reasons to use the dark web, but its anonymity makes it a perfect venue for illegal activity. Online dark web marketplaces enable users to buy and sell contraband, illegal drugs, weapons, and illegally obtained data.

What Is a Dark Web Scan? Can It Protect Your Identity?

Dark web scans search the dark web to look for a user’s PII and alert the user if they find sensitive information. However, it’s important to remember that dark web scans can’t catch everything because stolen data is often traded privately on the dark web.

Dark web scans can protect you by alerting you when your PII is found online, allowing you to take extra precautions to safeguard your identity. But once your information is already out there on the dark web, there is little you can do to recover it.

What Kind of Information Can You Find on the Dark Web?

There are many types of personal data that can be found on the dark web:

  • Personally identifiable information (PII): Your name, address, email address, phone number, driver’s license number, birth date and Social Security number (SSN) are types of PII that can be used to commit identity theft.
  • Account logins: Login credentials including emails, usernames and passwords can be used to access your accounts.
  • Financial data: Account numbers and routing numbers, financial records and other data may be used to access your funds.
  • Health record: Your medical records, insurance records and more can be used to commit identity theft.

How Does a Dark Web Scan Work?

To start a dark web scan, you will need to provide the company with key personal details so it knows what to look for. They will take that information and scour the dark web for your PII, including marketplaces, chat rooms, forums and other websites. If they discover your information on the dark web, they will alert you.

Is It Safe to Do a Dark Web Scan?

If you are working with a legitimate company, it is perfectly safe to do a dark web scan.

Dark Web Scanning vs. Dark Web Monitoring

Dark web scanning and dark web monitoring are similar services, but there is one key distinction:

  • Dark web scans perform a one-time search of the dark web, which only gives you an understanding of your PII on the dark web at a single point in time.
  • Dark web monitoring searches the dark web on an ongoing basis to actively monitor the internet for your information.

At IdentityIQ services, we use innovative technology to continuously scrape thousands of websites, marketplaces, chat rooms and forums on the dark web, so you know we’re always watching out for you.

What Can Criminals Do with My Personal Information?

When criminals obtain your personal information, they can use it to commit many types of identity theft:

Financial identity theft.

Criminals may use your PII to open new accounts in your name, or they may attempt to take over existing accounts.

Child identity theft.

When criminals obtain a child’s information, they can use it to create a fake person using parts of your child’s identity.

Senior identity theft.

Criminals may target older Americans to gain access to their retirement savings, government benefits, and more.

Tax identity theft.

Criminals may use your PII to file fraudulent tax returns in your name and claim a tax refund.

Medical identity theft.

Criminals may use your PII to receive medical services and prescriptions or submit fraudulent insurance claims.

Employment identity theft.

Criminals may use your PII to gain employment.

Criminal identity theft.

Criminals may provide your name when caught committing a crime, affecting your criminal record.

If Your Personal Information Is on the Dark Web, Do This:

If you find your personal information on the dark web, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Change your passwords and create strong, unique passwords for every account. You can use a password manager to help you create and keep track of all your passwords.
  • Turn on multifactor authentication for your online accounts to add an additional layer of security.
  • Read your monthly financial statements from your bank, credit card company, retirement plan administrator and more. Review transactions and withdrawals to look for suspicious activity.
  • Freeze your credit report with all three major credit bureaus to help stop criminals from opening fraudulent credit accounts in your name.
  • If your credit card or bank account number is found online, contact the financial institution and report it.
  • Sign up for identity theft protection. With IdentityIQ services, you gain round-the-clock monitoring, including dark web monitoring, that watches for suspicious activity and alerts you in real-time.

Bottom Line

It’s completely safe to perform a dark web scan and look for your PII online, but only dark web monitoring will provide continuous vigilance for better protection. It’s also important to remember that dark web scans have limitations and can’t view private web activity, nor can they recover your stolen information once it’s out there.

When used in conjunction IdentityIQ identity theft protection services, dark web monitoring is one key tool in your protection toolkit. You can navigate the web with more confidence, knowing that industry experts are vigilantly monitoring your identity to keep you safe.