FBI busts online black market selling millions of stolen Social Security numbers

US law enforcement officials have shut down a series of websites making $19 million in…

US law enforcement officials have shut down a series of websites making $19 million in revenue by selling stolen data. The black market data the websites trafficked in included crucial personal information like stolen Social Security numbers and birthdates. So it’s definitely a big win that this operation was dismantled.

The US Justice Department announced the shutdown of the “SSNDOB Marketplace” websites on June 7. Among other things, the announcement included this shocking detail: The websites were selling around 24 million stolen Social Security numbers. For context, that number exceeds the population of the state of Florida.

Websites selling stolen Social Security numbers

According to the DOJ, the SSNDOB website administrators created ads on dark web criminal forums. These ads promoted the marketplace’s services, while administrators offered customer support and monitoring for when buyers deposited money into their accounts.

Additionally, the SSNDOB administrators used a variety of techniques to stay anonymous and to prevent any snooping on their activities. This included, per US law enforcement, “using online monikers that were distinct from their true identities, strategically maintaining servers in various countries, and requiring buyers to use digital payment methods, such as bitcoin.”

An illustration of data on a computer screen. Image source: gonin/Adobe

The DOJ announcement continues. “The international operation to dismantle and seize this infrastructure is the result of close cooperation with law enforcement authorities in Cyprus and Latvia. On June 7, 2022, seizure orders were executed against the domain names of the SSNDOB Marketplace … effectively ceasing the website’s operation.”

Prevent identity theft

Criminal activity like this is a reminder that identity theft is an ever-present threat that people need to take seriously. Below, you’ll find steps that you can take, courtesy of USA.gov, to reduce the likelihood that you become a victim.

  • This first one should go without saying. Don’t share personal information (like your birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) just because someone asks for it.
  • Definitely shred old receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards.
  • Furthermore, you should review your once a year. And especially check to make sure they don’t include accounts that you haven’t opened. You can order your reports for free from Annualcreditreport.com.
  • Above all, create complex passwords that identity thieves can’t guess. Also, change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its computer systems.
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“I applaud the extensive work and cooperation by our domestic and international law enforcement partners in bringing a halt to this global scheme,” said US Attorney Roger Handberg as part of the SSNDOB announcement. “The theft and misuse of personal information is not only criminal but can have a catastrophic impact on individuals for years to come.”

Handberg announced the shutdown of the websites, along with Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon for the IRS — Criminal Investigation Washington D.C. Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge David Walker for the FBI — Tampa Division.