After a data breach, where does your personal information go?

Experian offers free dark web scan once a year

By Lauren Verno - Consumer investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It is almost impossible to keep up with how many data breaches there have been this year. 

It's better to assume the worst when it comes to your personal data. 

“We have so many breaches out there that people should just assume their data is taken and act upon that," explained Kevin Johnson, a cybersecurity expert and the creator of Secure Ideas.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Ken Jefferson knows firsthand that anyone is at risk after he found out he had been hacked.

"I saw an inquiry on my Equifax report that I did not make," he said.

Fortunately, Jefferson caught the problem quickly. 

"I monitor every single month, not just Equifax, but the three major credit bureaus. I monitor on a monthly basis," he said.

This week, Quest Diagnostics announced nearly 12 million customers' personal information had been compromised after a recent data breach struck American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), a third-party vendor Quest uses for medical billing services.

According to a statement from Quest, the company first learned of the breach within AMCA’s system on May 14. It wasn’t until two weeks later that the extent of the breach became clear -- the same system houses 11.9 million Quest customers’ personal and financial data, including Social Security numbers. 

Once your information is hacked, where does it go? The dark web.

According to Experian, on the dark web, people looking for personal information can get access to records that live online and are often available inexpensively, such as bundles that may go for less than $10 per record. These bundles are often called "Fullz" because they include the full package for fraudsters -- name, Social Security number, birthdate, account numbers and other data that make them desirable since they're rich enough to do immediate damage.

Savvy cyber thieves also may wait some time before using the data they buy, because immediately following a breach, many people are more guarded and on the lookout for red flags on accounts, bills and their credit reports.

Experian is one of the three major credit bureaus that offers a free dark web scan once a year. On Tuesday, News4Jax tried out the dark web scan. It consists of four steps and the process takes about five minutes from start to finish. You get your results right away.

It may be simple, but monitoring your credit is the simplest and most effective way to make sure your data is not compromised. All three of the major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and Transunion -- are required to offer a free credit report once a year. 

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