FOR SALE ON THE DARK WEB: 420,000 Lancashire people at risk of identity theft

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Cyber hackers could be trading the details of nearly 420,000 people in Lancashire on the Dark Web in a bid to extort them for cash and goods, research from a specialist data firm has found.

Across the Lancashire postcode, the personal data of 419,074 people is listed for sale on the underground marketplace.

We’re used to the banks picking up the credit and debit card losses, we don’t see the downside to ourselves of being careless with our personal information.

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The illicitly obtained data - from e-mail addresses and pictures to passport numbers and credit card details - is listed for sale on the areas of the internet which are encrypted and hidden from ordinary search engines.

Preston features in the top 20 worst postcodes in the country for the most identities stolen with 20,677 identitities from the PR1 postcode and 19,549 identities from the PR2 postcodes being listed for sale.

In the PR3 postcode area, 6,781 stolen identities were found for sale, 7,100 in PR4, 10,21 in PR5, 12,518 in PR7, 3,264 in PR26 and 28 in PR11.

Personal data has become one of the fastest growing tradeable commodities online. If criminals eventually gather enough information about an individual, they have the potential to open credit cards in their name, buy goods and transfer money.

Experts say fraudsters target people with low levels of security and those who do things like accessing their bank account details when using public WiFi.

The Johnston Press Investigations Unit has teamed up with London data firm C6, to reveal a picture of the booming identity trade among the criminal underworld.

The data firm employed expert staff to track the number of identities being sold on the dark web, with people’s email addresses and names traded through encrypted chat rooms.

“As consumers we have never really paid the price for fraud,” said Emma Mills, chief operating officer of C6, which runs the hasmyidentitybeenstolen.com website.

“We’re used to the banks picking up the credit and debit card losses, we don’t see the downside to ourselves of being careless with our personal information.”

Often the online marketplaces sell only partial information about an individual. One site allowed users to bulk purchase Paypal accounts for one US dollar per account.

The store, which also purported to sell eBay accounts, offered an 80 per cent working guarantee.

On its own, a person’s streaming service account details could be seen as innocuous, but profiles can then be ‘enriched’, often over a series of months, or even years.

Once the identity is rich enough, fraudsters can open credit card accounts in a person’s name, buy goods and transfer money.