It seems like data breaches are more frequent than holidays. In August, T-Mobile weathered its fifth hack in only four years. It was the largest one yet, leaking personal information (first and last names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and ID numbers) that belonged to more than 50 million people.
As if this weren’t bad enough, the hacker who claims to have done it told the Wall Street Journal that T-Mobile’s cybersecurity was “awful,” making for extremely easy entry. As a consequence, there’s a good chance that the Dark Web is hosting its version of Black Friday, selling Social Security numbers for a sweet bargain.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do once your info has been leaked. But if you’re the curious type, you may wonder, how much your Social Security number is worth in a clandestine marketplace? You’ll be disappointed to learn that in many cases, that highly precious piece of personal information is worth less than a Coke Zero.
A 2016 report found that Dark Web shoppers are only willing to pay $1 for a Social Security number, which is the same amount they’ll shell out for username and password information to Brazzers. A second report in 2017 confirmed these findings, adding that Social Security numbers can go for as little as 10 cents when sold in bulk.
If you’re not already thoroughly depressed, here’s another sad fact: Username and password information for Twitter accounts usually go for more — $2 to $3 in most cases.
The low cost and accessibility of stolen Social Security numbers is bad news for anyone who’s been involved in a data breach: If someone buys yours, they can file claims to pull money out of your Social Security account, file fraudulent tax returns for refunds and even open bank accounts, credit cards and more — all in your name.
Your best bet if T-Mobile failed you is to simply keep an eye on your credit reports and bank accounts. You can also contact the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to employ a fraud alert or freeze. The one caveat is that while the latter makes it harder for a stranger to open an account in your name, it does the same for you too, so be prepared to take extra steps if you have to open an account after establishing a credit freeze.
Who knew a dollar could buy you so much these days?