More than 800,000 records belonging to Yorkshire residents are available to criminals via the dark web, putting individuals at risk of identity fraud.
Analysis from due diligence company C6 Intelligence found hundreds of thousands of pieces of information for sale via criminal networks. More than 70,000 put people at high risk of theft.
The dark web refers to sites that are not accessible via search engines and includes networks that require special software to access.
Darren Innes, chief executive at C6 Intelligence, said: “Imagine an iceberg; what we see on Google and Yahoo is the top four per cent. The dark web is a place where serious criminality takes place. But police forces find it very difficult to police.”
C6 Intelligence accesses dark web sites offering stolen data to compile a register of those who could become a victim of crime.
Data on offer includes date of birth, email and passwords for sites and credit card numbers.
Of the 819,543 records found to relate to postcodes in the region, 22,590 were credit card numbers. A further 3,493 records held credit card and their related security CVV numbers.
The aim is to identify compromised data before any theft takes place, enabling individuals to take action, Mr Innes said.
“We’re locking the door before anyone gets robbed,” he said.
Regularly changing passwords, using different codes across websites and checking C6 Intelligence’s free-to-use register can help protect information, Mr Innes said.
Monitoring bank statements and credit files is useful, but they are “post-event indicators” that will only show after a theft.
According to the 2013 Annual Fraud Indicator, identity theft cost the economy £3.3bn last year. Individuals lose on average more than £1,000, Mr Innes said.
“That’s a lot of money, but not being able to get credit for a house, or having your bank account shut down, can be really traumatic,” he said.