"Consumers for sale! Get your consumer information here! Plump ripe consumers, ready for the taking! Only $1,170 for a full consumer package! À la carte information for as little as a few dollars! Get them while they're fresh."
Granted, there aren't peddlers roaming around your local business district selling your stolen information – but the above patter could apply in hidden and unregulated areas of the Internet (aka the "Dark Web"). According to the Dark Web Market Price Index released by the independent VPN review site Top10VPN in February 2018, a thief could purchase your entire online identity for approximately $1,170 if enough of your relevant information were there.
The full $1,170 package would include basic proof of identity, credit and debit accounts, online banking information, and logins for everything from your PayPal and eBay accounts to your shopping and social media accounts.
You might think credit card information would be the most valuable, but at $50, it's a relative bargain compared to debit card details ($67.50), online banking details ($160.15), and PayPal logins ($247). Perhaps that's a supply and demand issue, given the large amount of credit card information available – or perhaps thieves find it easier to drain a bank account and make PayPal purchases without being detected.
Passport information sells for $62.61 on the dark web according to the Dark Web Index, while other proof-of-identity documents are running just under $30. A separate Experian estimate from 2017 has driver's licenses selling for $20 while, surprisingly, Social Security numbers can sell for as little as $1.
Shopping logins range from $15.34 for Macy's to $1.56 for Wayfair and FreshDirect. Amazon and Walmart logins each go for $9.00. Best Buy and eBay logins go for $12.00 and $12.48 respectively, while GAP and Nordstrom round out the double-digit values at $10 each.
Social media account logins range from $1.28 for Instagram to $5.20 for Facebook. E-mail accounts are less valuable, as they are plentiful, access can be easily revoked, and it is more work to turn an e-mail account into cash as compared to stolen banking/credit data or PayPal and eBay account information.
Ready for more depressing news? The recently-released Dark Web Market Price Index for Hacking Tools shows how easy it is for novices to embark on their own life of crime. Password hacking tools and fake pages for major entities like Facebook, Walmart, Apple, and Amazon sell for around $2 each – less than the value meals at most fast food restaurants. Complete cybercrime hacking kits are available for as little as $125.
You can't prevent all breaches, since you don't control every server that stores your information – but you can take steps for sources you do control. Use strong passwords and change them regularly, keep anti-virus software updated, avoid phishing scams or unsolicited e-mail links, and limit the use of unsecure wireless connections. Hacking tools are cheap, and that means more attacks over time.
Check your credit report regularly for any fraudulent charges or accounts, and consider applying a credit freeze to keep thieves from opening new accounts in your name. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes by joining MoneyTips and using our Credit Manager tool. In addition, check other financial and shopping accounts periodically for any unusual activity.
If thieves are going to steal your identity, make them spend as much money as possible in the effort and limit their gains if they do. They are likely to move on to easier targets. While you're worth far more than $1,170, you should aim to make your value zero to a thief.
If you would like to prevent identity theft, join MoneyTips and check out our Identity Protector tool.