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pile of money used to buy stolen identities
Posted on January 8, 2016 by in Data Breach & Technology, Identity & Privacy, Personal

We often pore over identity theft statistics, seeing numbers about how many people are impacted by data breaches and the average cost of an identity theft strike.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering what happens to all of the personally identifiable information that’s stolen during a data breach. Many times, that information is sold to individuals hoping to profit from your misfortune. How much money are thieves getting for these stolen identities? Less than you think.

Setting the Price

According to news site Quartz Daily Brief, the going rate for a stolen identity is about $20, although some hacker websites will sell someone’s personal details for much less — sometimes as little as $1 per record.

Analyzing for-sale notices across the Dark Web for individual records over the past year, Quartz found 600 listings, some with credit card numbers available. Others were offered with social security numbers, addresses, employer information, income reports, and driver’s license numbers. Although $20 was the average for those 600 records, about one-third were sold for under $10.

What do other experts say? In late 2014, security researcher Brian Krebs noted that medical records were being sold in bulk for as little as $6.40 apiece. Those records were stolen from a Texas-based life insurance company. Due to the recent increase in high-profile healthcare data breaches and the rise of medical identity theft, many other records are likely available on the cybercrime underground.

Records with credit card information are among the most frequently sold items and usually go for less than $10, according to a VentureBeat article. PayPal and eBay accounts are also popular commodities on the black market, with access costing about $2 per account.

In general, the more information a criminal has on you, and the better your credit score, the more your identity is worth.

Small Cost, Big Impact

While the price for your information might be less than a cup of coffee in some instances, the financial impact of that sale could be devastating to you.

Both the United Stated Department of Justice and Javelin Strategy & Research estimate that, on average, identity theft victims suffer losses of almost $5,000. In addition to the financial impact of identity theft, many victims also experience severe emotional distress. Some spent over six months trying to resolve the financial and credit issues created by the theft, and the subsequent anxiety and stress caused problems with their work and personal relationships.

Although identity theft statistics seem to be holding steady — with potential growth in the future, thanks to numerous data breaches in 2015 — there are things that you can do to help protect yourself. Those safety precautions include being on the lookout for suspicious activity and checking bank account and credit card statements regularly.

In addition, you should consider adding another layer of protection by enrolling in an identity theft protection service like IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit. Your personal information will be monitored 24/7, and you’ll be notified of any suspicious activity. If anything does happen, IdentityForce will take care of all the paperwork and do all of the heavy lifting to help you quickly restore your identity and credit.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Colin.