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What is the dark web?

What is the dark web?
Image source: Getty Images

The dark web is a part of the web that can only be accessed through special configurations, web browsers or software. It’s a place where private networks can connect for all kinds of transactions and communications completely anonymously.

Although the dark web can have some positive uses (such as protecting whistleblowers or people whose privacy rights have been violated), it is also heavily used for computer crime, illegal file sharing and the purchase of illegal goods and services.

Financial fraud is rampant on the dark web and it continues to grow. 

How the dark web and your finances are related

The dark web can be a murky place, especially when it comes to finances. Fraudsters can anonymously sell everything from credit card information to bank account login details and PayPal accounts.

Some fraudsters sell this information in package form. A buyer paying for a package would get access to a lot of information, such as the data on the magnetic strip of a credit card, the CVV2 code of cards or full details about the account owner. With this information, fraudsters can then clone cards and open false bank accounts.

Fraudsters find this information through phishing or malware. In many cases, it’s as easy as somebody clicking on a link in an email.

Financial fraud in the dark web can take many forms. For example, in 2016 a vendor was sentenced for selling $1 million worth of fraudulent vouchers.

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The dangers of financial fraud in the dark web

The dark web is hidden, so it’s easy for data to be shared, leaked and sold. This is a place where fraudulent networks compete against each other for the best sale. For victims, this means information usually goes to people who know how to use it and cannot be easily tracked.

Cybersecurity researchers at Terbium Labs went through marketplace listings and found that the main data for sale (49%) was how-to sales on how to commit fraud, followed by:

  • 15% stolen personal data
  • 8.2% financial accounts and credentials (including passwords and usernames)
  • 7% payment card details

A few years ago, most transactions in the dark web used PayPal or Western Union for payment, making them somewhat traceable. Today, most operate through anonymous cryptocurrency transactions, which make them virtually impossible to stop.

With thousands of marketplaces on the dark web offering illicit goods and services, your financial information is at a higher risk than ever. 

How to protect yourself

The best thing you can do to keep your financial information off the dark web is to protect it in the first place. To avoid common online scams that steal your information, be vigilant when sharing personal details, even on social media. Change your important passwords (including the one for your bank account online) regularly. This way, even if a fraudster gets access to it, it won’t be useful for long. 

You should also review your credit reports regularly and look for strange activity that could indicate fraud. If you notice something unusual, contact your bank immediately to cancel your cards and change your access passwords. 

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