Child covering face with pumpkin

This is the time of year that makes it even more fun to step away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Scary movies, costumes, haunted houses and hayrides, trick-or-treating with family, and dreaming about all things ghosts and ghouls. If only our biggest worry was to not run out of candy on Hallows’ eve!

Unfortunately, there are digital monsters lurking in the real-world — scammers and hackers. We may not be able to see them but, whether you’re one or 101-years-old, they can really wreak havoc. This is the inevitable circle of identity theft, and how the threat haunts us throughout our entire lives.

Identity theft is ranked as one America’s most-feared crimes. In fact, a recent Gallup poll reported that two-thirds of respondents’ fear identity theft, whereas 24% have a fear of being a victim of terrorism and 17% worry about being murdered.

A Bump in the Night: Where Identity Thieves Lurk in the Shadows

Many of us consume information on the internet daily. However, most have only been on the “Surface Web,” which comprises a mere 4% of the World Wide Web. This is where your social media sites, online shopping retailers, news feeds, or blog sites live. While even trusted sites and apps like Facebook, Google, and Instagram can experience data breaches that expose us, the true depth of the internet may frighten you.

The remaining 96% is called the Deep Web, which contains protected information like tax data and medical records. The Deep Web is where you’ll find what’s known as the Dark Web, or the “Black Market” of the internet. Virtually every activity and transaction that occurs on this hidden layer of the internet is illegal – including the buying and selling of our Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

What’s in Your Dark Web Goodie Bag?

When it comes to PII, anything that could possibly be used to identify you has value to fraudsters. Companies continue to be hacked, exposing the personal information, bank credentials, and medical records of their customers.

While these pieces of data can ultimately lead to fraud, it’s the information that is most unique, and least likely to have been used, that determines how valuable it is. For example, a newborn’s identity profile sells for $300 on the Dark Web because they offer fraudsters a clean slate for creating synthetic identities. That makes them a much higher target in what’s become a growing crime – child identity theft.

It’s true that the odds of identity theft are scary, especially in light of the frequency of today’s data breaches. But, despite the many ways that scammers, hackers, and fraudsters get their hands on our PII, there are ways to stay protected.

5 Tips to Protect Your Personal Identity

  1. Update login information for your accounts. The odds are high that your password was exposed in a previous data breach.
  2. Don’t use the same password for multiple web sites. Use a password manager to generate unique credentials for every online account.
  3. Use two-factor authentication. Requiring an additional level of security can often thwart hackers from gaining access.
  4. Regularly review your statements. From your credit card statements to medical records, keep a close eye on any changes made as they could be a flag for fraud.
  5. Safeguard your digital footprint. Proactively protect your family with identity theft protection services.