Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

New York — How much is your personal data worth to you? A lot. (Thanks, Equifax.) And how much is it worth to an identity thief?

You may be surprised, or insulted, or enraged, to find out.

Verified high-limit credit cards from countries including the US, Japan, and South Korea are selling on the dark web for the bitcoin equivalent of about $10 to $20, according to an annual report on cyber-crime by SecureWorks, a unit of Dell.

The dark web is "the collection of internet forums, digital shop fronts and chat rooms that cyber-criminals use to form alliances, trade tools and techniques, and sell compromised data that can include banking details, personally identifiable information and other content", as SecureWorks defines it.

Verified means the seller has tested out transactions on the card and found it hasn’t been canceled yet. For scammers on a budget, there’s unverified stolen credit card data, which comes out to pennies a card when bought in bulk.

Credit cards generally aren’t selling any cheaper on the dark web these days, says Alex Tilley, a senior security researcher on SecureWorks’s counter-threat unit research team. But buyers are more likely to get higher quality cards today, ones with sizable limits and suitable properties for fraud. It isn’t as hit-or-miss as it used to be — a welcome change for criminals; chilling news for most of us.

Business credit cards are in favour as they sometimes have no limit on spending, Tilley says. Those and high-end personal cards — say, a Platinum American Express that has been verified and has an 85% rating (judged by the seller to have an 85% chance of being successfully used in a fraud) — will go for $15 to $20. A regular Mastercard that doesn’t have a big limit might go for $9.

But wait, there’s more. An underground hacker market inexplicably called Trump’s Dumps is selling full identities of individuals, just like you, for as little as $10 a piece. They’re called fullz, "dossiers that provide enough financial, geographic and biographical information on a victim to facilitate identity theft or other impersonation-based fraud," the report explains. Fullz can help a criminal get past those irritating "secret questions" that sites ask to verify your identity.

Recently, SecureWorks’s researchers have seen more offers of bulk, pre-verified card details, along with more identifying information about the owners. In some cases, offers even include the cardholder’s mother’s maiden name. Still, they cost just $10 to $12.

In fact, the prices cited by SecureWorks for these examples of personal data are lower than fraudsters have been willing to pay for documents such as W-2s [the American tax form on which individuals give their salary], which can be used to file false tax returns. Tax-filing data, which don’t expire, can go for about $40 to $50, according to a report from IBM’s security research group, known as the IBM X-Force, published earlier this year.

No piece of personal information is innocuous, Tilley says. Criminals will amass bits of data on people, waiting until they have enough for their fraud attempt likely succeeding. Everything is valuable. One bit of information could be the last piece of a puzzle someone needed to take out a loan in your name. You don’t know how far along criminals are until it’s too late."

Credit monitoring and freezes could be the only hope of protecting yourself, Tilley says. "The problem is that you put a lot of trust in the third-party companies that hold your data, and that’s a little out of your control."

Tell us about it.

Bloomberg

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