One of the world’s biggest consumer credit reporting agencies is trying to use consumers fear of the darknet to try and sell an identity theft protection product. Experian, known as one of the “big three” consumer credit reporting agencies alongside TransUnion and Equifax, is pushing its IdentityWorks Premium program as a way to protect consumers identity from nefarious users who sell private personal information on the darknet. “Is your personal information already being traded on the dark web,” one of Experian’s dark web advertisements asks. Experian launched the ad at the beginning of September. One advertisement shows a stereotypical portrayal of a hacker, and then cuts to a family, with a female voice-over calmly announcing a “free” “one time” dark web scan. Identity theft protection services have been quite popular recently, after another credit reporting agency, Equifax, suffered a huge data breach that leaked millions of people’s private information.
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Included with the IdentityWorks Premium program is a dark web monitoring/dark web surveillance program. Experian’s dark web surveillance program searches the darknet for a customer’s personal information such as social security numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, driver licenses, credit card and debit card numbers, medical information, passport numbers, bank account information, and other information. People who use Experian’s “Free Dark Web Email Scan” are offered a free 30 day trial of the IdentityWorks Premium program.
The majority of the business credit reporting agencies are without individual consumers. The individual consumer is their product, your private information is what they sell to people who want a credit report for banks and landlords. Consumer credit reporting agencies are starting to make customers out of individual consumers by offering credit and identity protection services. These services are supposed to protect consumers from the consequences of the leaking their private information online, which ironically, is often leaked from credit reporting agencies servers.
Equifax launched a site where consumers could check to see if their private information had been leaked from the Equifax data breach. However, the site seemingly randomly warned users their data may have been affected by the data breach or had not, as entering the same information multiple times would produce different results. When fake information was entered onto the site it would also randomly claim the private data may have been affected by the data breach. It is not known if Experian’s “Free Dark Web Email Scan” is similarly returning fake results. Whether or not Experian is telling the truth to users of their e-mail scan, they are using scare tactics to get people to buy their service. Many people irrationally fear the darknet, but that is often because they do not understand what it is.