What is Dark Web Monitoring?
You may have seen Experian’s ominous ad on TV, highlighting the dangers of sinister hackers behind computer screens, or you may have seen Experian’s Dark Web scan in the news. Either way, you’re probably aware that Experian is the biggest name when it comes to Dark Web monitoring. Although Experian isn’t your only option, it has a definite advantage as one of the main three credit bureaus that need to be monitored to avoid ID theft.
Experian describes their new service as “an identity theft prevention product that enables you to monitor your identity information on the dark web.”
Information that Experian claims to be able to monitor with its Dark Web Scan include the following:
- Social security number
- Email address
- Passport number
- Bank account numbers
- Phone numbers
- Medical ID numbers
- Credit and debit numbers
- Membership cards
How Much Does the Experian Dark Web Scan Cost Per Month?
The first Dark Web Scan you receive from Experian is what’s known as their “free Dark Web scan”. However, this initial scan and report is based only on your email address. You can then choose to continue Dark Web monitoring as part of an IdentityWorks Plus Membership with a free 30-day trial, followed by a $9.99-per-month subscription. A more extensive and expensive plan is available.
With the paid subscription, you get Dark Web monitoring, as well as the following:
- Identity Theft Insurance up to $500,000 or $1 million depending on your plan
- Lost Wallet Assistance
- Identity Theft Alerts
- Address Change Verification
- Experian CreditLock
- Credit Scores
- S.-Based Fraud Resolution Specialist
How Does Experian Dark Web Monitoring Work?
With Experian Dark Web Monitoring, you choose which personal information you want to track on the Dark Web. The initial free scan and report uses only your email address, but from there, you can choose to scan the Dark Web for your social security number, banking numbers, and other identifying information.
Experian claims to scan over 600,000 Web pages, including chat rooms, forums, file transmissions, and other commonly-used identity theft platforms.
Is Dark Web Monitoring Safe?
The year 2017 was rife with cyber data breaches and large-scale identity left, most notably including the major data breach at Equifax, which affected 143 million people. Each year, more and more of our buying and communicating activity moves onto the Internet, putting us at greater risk for information theft. When our financial information and social security numbers are in play, the risk is even greater.
With so many security breaches making headlines, consumers are rightly concerned about giving out their personal information on the Internet–even if it is for identity theft-prevention purposes. Giving your personal information to Experian or any other credit bureau or agency is no different.
Experian’s Dark Web Terms of Service
Experian makes it easy for customers to perform a “Dark Web scan” by simply inputting their email address. Before doing so, though, you’ll be informed that your email address can be used to send you advertisements for Experian services and other products.
By entering your email address for the Dark Web scan, you agree to Experian’s Terms and Conditions, which includes an arbitration clause: by agreeing to the Terms of Service, you agree that you will not and cannot sue the company. This could mean that, should a security breach occur, you won’t have any legal recourse if Experian is found responsible.
Does Experian Sell Your Information?
The Terms and Conditions also includes sections revealing that your information can and will be used for marketing purposes: you’re granting Experian permission to sell your information to outside parties, who can then advertise to you via email, even if you cancel your Experian membership.
LifeLock Dark Web Monitoring
Experian isn’t the only name in the game when it comes to Dark Web monitoring. LifeLock, a publicly-traded credit-monitoring company, also offers the service as part of their LifeLock Standard Membership. As with Experian, you can choose a higher-end monitoring package with LifeLock for a higher price.
How Much Does LifeLock Cost Per Month?
LifeLock’s Standard Membership costs $9.99 per month and includes the following:
- Dark Web monitoring
- LifeLock Privacy Monitor Tool
- Lost Wallet Protection
- LifeLock Identity Alert System
- One-Bureau Credit Monitoring
- Stolen Funds Reimbursement up to $25,000, $100,000, or $1 million depending on your plan
- Address Change Verification
- Coverage For Lawyers and Experts
LifeLock vs. Experian
Whether you choose a paid membership with LifeLock or Experian, you’ll receive essentially the same services and benefits. If your primary interest is checking for identity theft on the Dark Web, you might benefit from Experian’s free Dark Web scan offer, which is something currently unavailable from LifeLock. However, if you’re interested in Dark Web monitoring as part of an all-inclusive identity theft-prevention package, it will come down to which company you trust more.
Both companies also have easy contact options for email and phone, and LifeLock has the option of chatting with a live agent.
What is the Dark Web?
To fully understand dark web monitoring and the Experian dark web scan service, it helps to better understand what the dark web really is. And to understand that, you have to understand the different layers, or levels, of the Internet: Surface Web, Deep Web, and Dark Web.
Level 1: Surface Web
The Internet we’re all most familiar with is called the “Surface Web”. This is anything that Google can index in a typical search. By clicking links and visiting different pages that all relate to one another, you’re engaging with the Surface Web.
Level 2: Deep Web
Moving down to level 2, we arrive at the Deep Web. The Deep Web is anything that a search engine like Google cannot find. Deep Web and Dark web are often mistaken, so it’s important to make the differentiation.
The Deep Web includes searches you perform in private websites that search engines cannot access directly. For example, if you visit your state’s court record database, you’ll often be given a search bar, with which you can search the database. The information you can access in that database using that particular search bar isn’t available using a Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any other engine’s search service.
Level 3: Dark Web
Here is where it’s important to differentiate deep web vs. dark web. The Dark Web lies within the Deep Web but comprises only a small portion of the Deep Web. The Dark Web is the portion of the Deep Web that has been intentionally hidden and is therefore inaccessible via standard web browsers (Mozilla, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari, etc.).
You may have heard of the TOR network, which is an anonymous Dark Web network that can only be accessed with a special browser. The TOR network is the most widely known Dark Web network because of its association with illicit and illegal activities. Because networks on the Dark Web like TOR can’t be easily tracked, it’s easier to perform illegal actions anonymously and without leaving any evidence.
The difficult nature of reaching or searching the Dark Web has left many wondering, is it possible to monitor the dark web? We’re still in the early days of “Dark Web monitoring” services, and more time will help determine whether or not these services are worth the time and money.
Does Dark Web Monitoring Really Work?
There is some debate as to whether or not the Experian Dark Web Scan—or any Dark Web scan, for that matter—really works. Experienced Internet users have taken to forums to express their concern that the Equifax Dark Web Scan is no more than clever marketing copy.
Specifically, those who have first-hand experience delving into the Dark Web have insisted that scanning this tiny portion of the Deep Web is simply impossible: It can’t be accessed by standard search engines or even regular browsers, so how can Experian scan all it for a particular user’s information?
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Experian’s and other company’s Dark Web monitoring services are gimmicks, and there is a good chance that Experian is able to look into certain parts of the Dark Web. However, it’s still unclear whether they’re able to do so to the extent a user might expect.
Dark Web Monitoring Commonly Asked Questions
How does Dark Web monitoring help prevent identity theft?
Experian’s Dark Web monitoring purportedly scans hundreds of thousands of Dark Websites, messages, and documents for the information you provide. If any of your information turns up on these sites, you’ll receive an alert telling you that your information has been compromised. You’ll then have the opportunity to remedy that compromise, whether it entails freezing your credit or credit cards, or simply changing a password.
What is the difference between the Deep Web and the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is the most hidden portion of the Deep Web. The Deep Web includes parts of websites you can easily access through the website itself but cannot access via your search engine. The Dark Web, on the other hand, cannot be easily accessed on any standard browser, and must be accessed using a specific browser.
Does Dark Web monitoring really work?
It’s still unknown if Dark Web monitoring works and if it is truly beneficial to consumers. The Dark Web is, by nature, impossible to search using engines and standard browsers. It is unclear how Experian and other companies are monitoring the Dark Web, scanning hundreds of thousands of different sites.
How can I protect myself from Dark Web identity theft?
If you decide that Dark Web monitoring isn’t right for you—or even if you do choose to enroll in Dark Web monitoring—there are other steps you should take to protect yourself against identity theft on the Dark Web. Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to do so, but you can do the following:
- Monitor your accounts and statements. If any information looks off, contact the holder of the account.
- Use strong passwords for everything, and never use the same password twice. It’s also a good idea to change your passwords regularly.
- Check your credit regularly to see if there are any suspicious inquiries or collections. You may consider enrolling in a credit monitoring membership.
Should You Get A Free Dark Web Scan?
Any time you’re considering giving a company valuable personal information like your credit card numbers or social security number (especially your social security number), make sure you read through and understand any fine print you can find.
Use your better judgment when you choose whether or not to sign up for a Dark Web scan: You may find that the other services included in a package, like that offered by LifeLock, are well worth the monthly membership on their own, and that the Dark Web monitoring is an added bonus. Whether or not you enroll, it’s always a good idea to take steps towards protecting your identity online.