Tens of millions of people have been scrambling to protect their personal information since news of the Equifax data breach came out. Around 143 million Americans had critical data including Social Security numbers, home addresses, and some drivers license numbers exposed.
This type of stolen data is valuable to criminals. But have you ever wondered what they actually do with it? You might be shocked to find out.
How cybercriminals utilize stolen Social Security numbers
Many times, the hackers behind a data breach aren't the ones actually using the stolen information. They sell the data on the Dark Web to other criminals, who in turn use it to drain victims' bank accounts and commit tax fraud.
The Dark Web is an encrypted network of "Darknets" that make up a portion of the Deep Web. Accessing this hidden section of the web requires a special encryption software called Tor. Click here for an entire breakdown of what the Dark Web is and how it's different from the Deep Web.
Criminals on the Dark Web are willing to pay for information like what was exposed by Equifax. Cybercriminals not only sell the stolen data but also guides that explain what to do with it. For example, how to open fraudulent bank accounts or commit tax fraud.
Stolen data like this doesn't always turn up on the Dark Web immediately. In fact, many times it will pop up years later when you least expect it. That's why it's so important to take safety steps that will not only protect you today but in the future as well.
How to respond to the Equifax data breach
The Equifax data breach is one of the worst of all time. Critical information stolen includes Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and some drivers license and credit card numbers.
With so many people impacted, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is advising everyone to open a my Social Security account on its website. Click here to learn how to open your account and more steps to protect your Social Security number.
Also, Equifax is offering consumers a free monitoring service. Rather than signing up for Equifax's free monitoring service, it's better to put a credit freeze on your accounts.
This is an important step we recommend you take to protect your identity under any circumstance because it helps stop criminals from opening credit card accounts under your name. A credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit reports and scores provided by the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and yes, Equifax).
Locking up your credit reports will prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts under your name even when they have managed to steal your personal information. Since lenders are required to check your credit report before they can approve a new application, a credit freeze can stop fraudulent accounts from being made at your expense.
Setting up a credit freeze might sound difficult, but we promise it's not. In fact, we've written an entire tip about it with step-by-step instructions. If you believe your private information has been compromised by this or one of the many past data breaches, then you need to take our advice to protect your finances.
--> Click here and we'll show you how to set up a credit freeze and protect your identity! This is very important.