CRIMINALS can access the personal details of more than 36,000 people living in Bromsgrove and South West Birmingham on the so-called ‘dark web’.
Details ranging from home addresses to bank account numbers are being held on 36,267 people living in postcode areas B60, B61, B45 and B31, according to C6 Intelligence, the company which carried out the search for The Standard.
In the Bromsgrove areas alone, 892 cases of ‘high-risk’ information is up for sale including credit card numbers, passwords and security answers for online accounts. But that number goes up to 3,353 for B31 and 782 for B45.
During their search, C6 Intelligence also found 800 credit card numbers for Bromsgrove and South West Birmingham residents, 123 of which came with the three-digit security code printed on the back of bank cards.
A total of 737 e-mail and password combinations were available to buy across B60, B61, B45 and B31, according to their search, as were 41 account numbers and 12 answers to security questions.
The dates of birth of 3,437 residents across B60, B61, B31 and B45 are also available and according to C6 Intelligence’s Chief Executive Officer, Darren Innes, the material is easy to access for those in the know.
“As members of the public we only see between ten and 20 per cent of the internet.
“Lots of websites which are set up are purely being used by criminals.
“We call it the ‘dark web’ and it’s the same place where drugs are sold and people go to get child pornography.
“The sale of personal data is almost risk-free crime because it’s so hard to stop.
“When one site is shut down another opens up just a few hours later.
“People are getting away with it because the risk is so low.”
Mr Innes said criminals gathered personal data through a combination of sophisticated hacking techniques and by finding information that was readily available on social media sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
He added, worryingly, the information was available was growing annually – at the start of this year, the organisation was finding 13,000 pieces of new data each day but in the last two months that figure had risen to 658,000.
“The threat is very real and most people only find out they have been victim to dark web crime when they check their bank statements and see an unexpected transaction, or when they apply for credit and are refused,” he said.
Det Chf Insp Sean Paley, from West Mercia Police specialist operations unit, said “Most people would never dream of leaving their home unlocked or handing out details of personal or business bank accounts to strangers in the street.
“However, many are leaving themselves just as vulnerable as this online.
“An understanding of the scams to look out for and knowing the simple preventative measures that can be put in place, really can reduce the chances of someone becoming a victim of cyber crime.”
C6 Intelligence recommend changing passwords regularly and having a different password for each online account.
Visit www.hasmyidentitybeenstolen.com to run a free search to see if your personal details are for sale.