News10NBC Special Report: Shining a light on the Dark Web

February 20, 2017 11:24 PM

ROCHESTER -- Chances are your personal information including your name, address, birthday and social security number, is for sale to the highest bidder right now.

No matter how careful you are about protecting your information, hackers are good at breaching employers, retailers, healthcare companies and other businesses and they then sell the information to scammers on the Dark Web.

This time of year, both hackers and good old fashion thieves are particularly interested in your W2. The documents have all the information needed to steal your identity and they are popular items for sale on the Dark Web.

Scammers who buy the information can then turn around and use it to file tax returns in your name and collect your refunds.

"You could go on the Dark Web right now and find thousands of people here in Rochester. For sure your identity is available today, there's almost no exceptions because of the vast number of breaches and exposures that we've seen in the past five years,” says Reg Harnish, CEO of GreyCastle Security.

The Dark Web is an encrypted network that can’t be found by conventional search engines but if you know where to look, you can locate it. Criminals sell weapons, child porn, drugs and hackers who breach companies sell the information they steal.

"Buying and selling stolen credit cards online or identities, or even W2s is big business,” Harnish says adding, "your W-2 is effectively your identity, so with that, I can get--commit tax fraud, I can commit insurance fraud, I can get a mortgage, a credit card, I can do lots of things with your identity.”

So, what’s being done to stop criminals who are lurking on the Dark Web? Well, not much… “For every illegal site we might identify and shut down, that same day there's probably another 100, 200, or 1,000 sites that have come up again because individuals are always exploiting different opportunities,” says FBI Supervisory Agent Jason Thicket.

The money used to make the exchanges can’t be tracked in most cases either since the going currency is Bitcoin. "It's encrypted all the way through so it's going through multiple relays before it gets to its end point which makes it even more difficult,” Agent Thicket adds.

If our information is for sale on the Dark Web, what are we supposed to do? "You've got to take the additional three seconds to do the things that you can do because there's a lot you can't do so, checking accounts, checking out as a guest, always using a credit card instead of a debit card, not sharing sensitive information in places that maybe don't need it,” says Harnish who adds you should also be checking your credit report often to look for any accounts that are unfamiliar.

You are entitled to one free copy of your report once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies, to get yours go to

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Jennifer Lewke

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