The Federal Trade Commission said it has received reports from the public that they have gotten emails warning that their sensitive personal information is being sold.
The emails, the FTC said, claimed that the information was going on dark marketplaces. The information that was claimed to be stolen includes Social Security numbers, date of births, and driver’s license numbers.
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.
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. 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.
The Better Business Bureau offers similar advice to those who receive these emails.
“Most of the information on the dark web is locked behind access-restricted doors. Monitoring services may have keys to some of those doors, but not all of them. There are layers within layers, with much of the illegal information exchanged privately. Also, the dark web is vast. The hundreds of thousands of pages those services scan is just the tip of the iceberg,” the BBB said.