Smart About Money: “Your information has been found on the dark web …”

Nick Maffeo Many people have heard of “the dark web.” Most have no idea of what it is and – given the potential dangers – they aren’t inclined to go looking.

According to online security company Norton 360, “The dark web is a part of the internet that’s made up of hidden sites you can’t find through conventional search browsers. Dark web sites use encryption software so their owners and visitors can remain anonymous – which is why the dark web is home to so much illegal activity.”

Perhaps you have gotten an email from a company selling protection plans saying, “Your information has been found on the dark web.” Maybe you’ve worried about that or you wondered if it’s something you should worry about.

The reality is that so much information about people is already a public record (like home deeds) or out there from being used on social media web sites or from previous breaches. It would be difficult if not impossible to get all that information delisted.

Some people get angry about that. Others get overwhelmed and discouraged and think, “Why even try?”

As usual – when it comes to protecting yourself – it pays to do what you can do.

Freezing your credit is something you can do very easily. It’s free and offers substantial protection. As NerdWallet has written, “A credit freeze blocks access to your credit reports to stop new accounts from being opened in your name. This can protect you from fraudulent credit applications even if a criminal has key information such as your birthdate and Social Security number.”

The credit reporting services – Equifax, Experian and Transunion – all have simple instructions on their web sites. (You need to freeze your credit report with each one individually.) If you have questions, a good explanation of credit freezing and lifting credit freezes is available at

You can also use technology to get alerts about expected transactions and unexpected transactions on your accounts. Monitoring this way is very popular. As usual, it is important to take a close look at any alert you receive to make sure it’s authentic. Also be sure to review bank and credit card statements closely monthly and report any discrepancies immediately.

To the extent it’s possible, it’s worth it to try to be cautious about the personal information you willingly put out about yourself on sites like Facebook or Venmo. A determined scammer can use that information to make it seem as if they know you in order to get you to lower your guard.

A few other things that you can easily do:
> When possible, work with local businesses who have people you can get to know and trust in person.
> All scams come down to a demand or request for money. Decide to refuse to ever send money to someone who is basically a stranger with an odd or alarming story who’s looking for payment in alternative forms of currency like gift cards, wire transfers or Bitcoin.
> Be normally cautious and protective. Don’t let the vastness of the internet and the dark web make you so disheartened that you give up or do nothing.

If you have concerns, talk to your banker or trusted tech-knowledgeable friends. Do the things you can do and stay generally aware of your options to protect yourself and deal with potential new threats.

From the “Smart About Money” Canton Citizen column published on March 21, 2024.
Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office – in Canton.
Have a question? Email to

Previous Post
Scammers are using AI technology …
Next Post
POSTPONED – ”Is this the right time to buy a house?” — Free HomeBuyer Info Session on Saturday, April 20th on Zoom

Accessibility Toolbar