Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education
September 26, 2022
People are telling us they’ve gotten emails warning that their sensitive personal information is being sold in the shadowy marketplaces of the dark web. Some emails list the stolen information, like all or part of the person’s Social Security number, date of birth, and driver’s license number. If you’ve gotten one of these emails, take steps to help protect yourself against financial loss from identity theft.
Don’t click a link or use a phone number in the message. It could be a “phishing” email, designed to trick you into disclosing sensitive information to scammers. If you think the message is legit — for example, if you have a credit monitoring service or a credit card with a company that monitors the dark web — contact the company using a website or phone number that you know is real.
Change your passwords to secure your accounts. Start by changing the passwords on your email accounts. Email accounts often are the weak link in online security because password resets for other accounts go to your email. If your email account password has become known, then an identity thief can log into your account and intercept your password reset emails.
- Pro tip: When setting up new passwords, consider using a password manager. Free ones are built into most browsers and will automatically create passwords that are hard to guess. Be sure to use different passwords for each account and, if the account offers multifactor authentication, use it for added security.
Check your credit reports. After securing your accounts, make sure nobody has opened new accounts using your information. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get an annual free credit report from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Through December 2023, you can get a free credit report every week from each of them at the website. If you find an account or transaction you don’t recognize, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the identity theft and get a personal recovery plan.
Consider freezing your credit. A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, is free to place and remove and is the best way to protect against an identity thief opening new accounts in your name. Alternatively, place a free fraud alert on your credit to make it more difficult for an identity thief to get new credit in your name.