With all the major hacks going on lately, including the huge one from Equifax, you have to wonder how hackers actually use stolen social security numbers. This information is precious to them when they want to drain bank accounts and commit tax fraud. So much so that they actually buy such data. Imagine how happy they were when Equifax gave it to them for free…
How hackers use stolen Social Security numbers
The tracking of stolen social security numbers and other personally identifiable information (PII) is commonly sold on the so-called dark web. It is an online black marketplace that is full of information such as these personal data, as well as drugs and already stolen identities. Some of the darknet markets include:
While law enforcement is always looking to close such markets down, they have not closed down all. Not anywhere near.
Are more stolen security numbers turning up?
What I have seen amongst commentary from the online security community (and from looking) is that there has not been a significant increase in stolen Social Security numbers circulating on the dark web since the Equifax breach. Just the usual amount of stolen information. Which is already too much…
What they use stolen social security numbers for
The most common uses for stolen Social Security numbers include:
- Mortgage fraud: Hackers will take out false mortgages using the identification information of other people.
- Tax fraud: This involves filing tax claims under your name.
- Credit card fraud: Hackers can either use your active cards or open up new accounts to commit credit fraud.
- Bank accounts: Once a hacker has your personally identifiable information, especially your Social Security number, they can open up bank accounts in your name.
And the Equifax breach isn’t the only thing responsible for this ID theft. Hackers can find some of this information right on your Facebook account. For instance, your exact date of birth is a valuable piece of information towards compiling your personally identifiable information.
Moms, please don't post your kids' name, birthday, birth city on Facebook (or anywhere)! Opens them to ID & password theft! #MothersDay
— Sandy Kendell (@EdTechSandyK) May 9, 2015
Protect yourself from stolen Social Security numbers
You are going to have to start paying attention to the information that you share online. We’re also going to have to use tools. Let’s look at what you need to do:
- Monitor your credit score. A hacker committing some sort of fraud against you will be reflected quickly on your credit score. You can even sign up for services that monitor fraudulent activities.
- Closely monitor your credit cards and bank accounts. Fraudulent charges on either should be immediately reported.
- When doing any sort of financial activity, especially on public Wi-Fi, make sure to have your connection encrypted through a trusted VPN provider. No hacker has the time to crack high-grade encryption. They will simply move on to a more vulnerable target, therefore protecting you.
- Stop reusing passwords. Use a password management app that will protect you by creating multiple passwords for all of your different accounts. That way, if a hacker does get one password, it will not make you vulnerable to fraud across all your accounts.
At the end of the day, a major security breach like the one from Equifax is beyond your control. The customer credit reporting agency had a problem; it didn’t fix the issue, and the breach exposed you. That’s why, you need to sign up with a monitoring service that will help protect you, and you need to stay vigilant with your own activities online.