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Is Your Social Security Number for Sale on the Dark Web? What to Do Next

If you‘ve received any notifications recently that your personal data was compromised in a breach, it‘s possible your Social Security number has wound up for sale on the dark web. But what exactly does this mean, and what should you do if it happens?

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about keeping your identity safe if your SSN ends up on the shady cyber black market. Read on to learn how to check if your number is there, steps to take if it is, and tips to help prevent identity theft.

Diving Into the Dark Web’s Murky Depths

First, let‘s explore what the dark web actually is. The internet consists of three layers:

  • Surface web: The sites you access through regular search engines like Google – about 4% of the internet.
  • Deep web: Content not indexed by search engines, like pages behind logins – about 90% of the internet.
  • Dark web: Encrypted networks that allow anonymous communication – around 6% of the internet.

The dark web sits on top of the deep web and exists on overlay networks requiring specialized software like Tor to access. With multiple layers of encryption, users can operate anonymously outside the reach of authorities.

This privacy appeals to many people, but it also provides an ideal environment for illicit activities. The dark web contains hidden marketplaces where cybercriminals buy, sell, and auction off everything from stolen credit cards to hacked data to illegal drugs and counterfeit goods.

In 2021, dark web transactions for stolen identities and compromised accounts totaled over $2 billion. Data breaches exposing consumers‘ sensitive information, including Social Security numbers, are frequently dumped onto the dark web‘s black markets.

How Criminals Get Their Hands On Your SSN

Cybercriminals obtain your personal data, including your SSN, primarily through:

  • Malware attacks: Installing malware or spyware gives hackers direct access to steal information from your device.
  • Data breaches: When companies you trust like credit bureaus, banks, or healthcare providers experience a breach, your information is exposed and potentially stolen. Recent major breaches impacting SSNs include Equifax in 2017 (147 million exposed), T-Mobile in 2021 (over 40 million exposed), and Medibank in Australia in 2022 (9.7 million exposed).

Once secured, criminals sell or auction off your SSN and other identities on dark web marketplaces for shockingly low prices. Most SSNs fetch only $3 to $4, while an entire identity profile or "fullz" sells for around $15 to $20.

With your SSN and other personal details in hand, fraudsters can open fraudulent accounts or file false tax returns to monetize your identity.

Signs Your SSN May Be on the Dark Web

Watch for these common red flags that indicate your SSN may have leaked onto the dark web‘s shady marketplace:

  • You receive an influx of suspicious emails, calls, or text messages containing scams, phishing links, or malware. Criminals with your info try to take advantage.
  • A company notifies you of a data breach where your SSN was potentially compromised. Equifax, Yahoo!, Marriott, and many healthcare providers have issued such warnings.
  • You receive mail from unfamiliar companies about loans or accounts you didn‘t open. Someone may be using your SSN to commit fraud.
  • You notice unauthorized charges or accounts on your credit report from Identity Guard, Experian, TransUnion, or another provider.
  • You receive notice of tax fraud indicating a criminal filed taxes using your SSN. Over 1.4 million tax-related identity thefts occurred in 2020.
  • You discover an unknown medical insurance policy activated under your name using your SSN. This feeds stolen identities.

Any of these could signal cyber thieves obtained your SSN and plan to monetize it through identity theft.

Checking the Dark Web for Your SSN

If you suspect your SSN is on the dark web, here‘s how to check:

  • Review any accounts that have your SSN on file and search for recent breaches impacting those companies.
  • Use dark web monitoring services like LifeLock, IdentityForce, Identity Guard, or credit bureaus which use specialized tools to scan stolen data on the dark web and alert you if your SSN appears.
  • Many VPNs and password managers like Dashlane also scan for compromised emails associated with your SSN.
  • Running scans with multiple services enhances coverage across different dark web sites and databases.

While it‘s technically possible for anyone to access the dark web directly via Tor, it‘s risky. Dark web monitoring services remove that danger and do the searching for you.

What To Do If Your SSN Lands On the Dark Web

If a dark web scan confirms your SSN is in the hands of criminals, act swiftly on these steps:

  • Place a credit freeze on your accounts at Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian to block fraudulent new accounts. This locks your credit reports.
  • Open a mySocialSecurity account with the SSA to monitor your Social Security Statement for errors and prevent fraudulent benefit claims.
  • Report any suspicious activity related to your SSN to the SSA at 1-800-269-0271 so they can flag your account.
  • Obtain your credit reports at and dispute any unfamiliar accounts or charges with the credit bureaus.
  • Carefully check all financial account statements and credit card bills for signs of unauthorized transactions. Report any you find.
  • Consider signing up for an identity theft protection service like LifeLock or IDNotify to help monitor your accounts, alert you to suspicious activity, and provide insurance and recovery help if you do become an ID theft victim.

Though impossible to remove your SSN from the dark web entirely, taking preventative action helps minimize potential identity theft damage.

Top Identity Theft Protection Services with Dark Web Monitoring

Service Dark Web Monitoring ID Theft Insurance Credit Reports & Scores Fraud Alerts Mobile App Plans Start At
Norton LifeLock Yes Up to $1 million Unlimited Equifax For credit, bank & SSN Yes $8.99/mo
IdentityForce Yes $1 million 3 bureau with scores Real-time alerts Yes $17.95/mo
IDNotify Yes Up to $1 million Equifax Customizable alerts Yes $6.67/mo

How To Prevent Identity Theft

While no one can guarantee complete safety online, implementing these tips can greatly reduce your risk of identity theft:

  • Monitor your credit reports. Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at least once a quarter for unauthorized activity. Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service that provides regular access and alerts.
  • Freeze your credit. Placing a credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, blocking thieves from opening new fraudulent accounts. Freezing is free and you can temporarily lift it when needed.
  • Practice good cyber hygiene. Use strong unique passwords, multi-factor authentication, antivirus software, firewalls, and a VPN for safer browsing. Don‘t click suspicious links.
  • Shred documents. Shred old documents and statements containing sensitive information before disposal. Dumpster diving provides thieves a trove of personal data.
  • Review statements closely. Closely scrutinize all financial account and credit card statements each month for any strange charges or accounts. Report anything suspicious promptly.
  • Limit sharing information. Only provide personal information like your SSN when absolutely required, and restrict sharing to reputable websites and companies.
  • Use an identity theft protection service. Companies like Lifelock provide dark web monitoring, credit checks, and insurance to help protect you from ID theft and recover if it happens.

No one can protect themselves 100% against data breaches. But staying vigilant in monitoring your identity and accounts goes a long way in detecting any misuse early and limiting the damage. As cybersecurity expert Joseph Steinberg explains, "Prevention is ideal, but damage control is a must."

The Bottom Line

In today‘s digitally connected world, all consumers face an elevated risk of having their identity stolen and SSN compromised through some type of data breach. But don‘t panic if you find out your number is for sale on the dark web‘s black market. Just be sure to take swift action by freezing your credit, monitoring all accounts closely, and considering additional protection services. With proactive precautions, you can significantly reduce potential identity theft headaches.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.