Fighting Identity Theft on the Dark Web

To prevent ID theft, credit card issuers monitor the dark web for your personal information.

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With identity theft on the rise, credit card issuers are introducing new benefits designed to make you feel more secure. Discover recently announced that cardholders can sign up for free monitoring of their Social Security numbers on the “dark web,” where criminals buy and sell stolen personal data. “It’s like Amazon for thieves,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. If your SSN pops up on a risky website, Discover will alert you through e-mail or text message. MasterCard also offers free dark-web surveillance for credit and debit card customers’ SSNs plus other information, such as the number associated with your driver’s license. It’s a common feature of paid identity-theft monitoring services, too.

If you learn that your SSN is floating around on internet black markets, don’t panic. It only means that your number is up for grabs, not necessarily that anyone is using it maliciously. But don’t be complacent, either, given the proliferation of data breaches in recent years. In 2016, one in three people who were notified that their personal information was compromised experienced ID fraud in the same year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

If your SSN is at risk, consider putting a freeze on your credit reports. (You may have to pay a fee; see I Thwarted ID Thieves). Everyone should get their free yearly credit reports at Annualcreditreport.com (opens in new tab) and check them for unrecognized accounts.

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Lisa Gerstner
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Lisa has spent more than15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.