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  • Ukrainian Man Guilty for Stealing Social Security Numbers Over Dark Web Activities

    A Ukrainian man part of a sophisticated dark web network has been arrested for hacking and selling millions of Social Security numbers in various marketplaces. The man has pleaded guilty to all the charges and can get up to 15 years in prison.

    According to the evidence gathered against him, Vitalii Chychasov has managed to make over $19 million by selling Social Security numbers from people in the USA. Data packages sold by the Ukrainian man also included other private details, such as full names and dates of birth.

    Victims were all Americans. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the hack has affected over 24 million people from multiple states.

    Once arrested and shown the evidence against him, Chychasov decided to plead guilty, hoping to get a more lenient sentence due to his collaboration. He was accused of conspiracy to cybercrime, fraud and trafficking personal data through the hackers’ online scheme.

    The hacker was arrested while trying to get from Ukraine to Hungary. In March, 2022, he tried to travel across Europe, but was captured at the borders. Four months later, he was sent to the USA for trial due to an agreement the two countries have.

    The Ukrainian man was definitely not alone in the hacking scheme. Another suspect, Sergey Pugach, was also been arrested soon after Chychasov, in May.

    The two dark web marketplaces used to traffic the Social Security numbers were shut in June, just months after the two hackers were arrested. The authorities have managed to get seizure orders against them and took them down straight away.

    The agreement

    The dark web hacker and American authorities reached to a plea agreement. Chychasov agreed to forfeit $5 million, but at the same time, he also gave up access to a series of domains used in the operation, such as ssndob.club, ssndob.ws, ssndob.vip and blackjob.biz.

    The whole operation was referred to as the SSNDOB (Social Security Numbers Dates Of Birth) among hackers and all the above mentioned domains were used to sell data, not to mention a few marketplaces on the dark web.

    The scheme was too sophisticated for American authorities to tackle it by themselves. The FBI and the IRS worked in a tight collaboration with police forces in Latvia and Cyprus to identify the hackers and dismantle the operation.

    Throughout their operation, SSNDOB managers advertised for the data on various dark web forums and services. Well known for its high level of security and anonymity, the dark web was a primary source of customers.

    To make sure they’re less likely to be discovered, the hackers purchased and maintained a few different servers in other countries, hence the necessity of an international police collaboration. Other than that, hackers interested in buying these details were asked to use cryptocurrencies and digital payments only.

    Despite admitting everything, Chychasov hasn’t been convicted yet. He’s not waiting for his sentence, while kept under arrest. His attorneys failed to provide a press declaration after the update regarding his collaboration came out.

    How to protect your personal identity

    Identity theft is one of the most popular crimes over the Internet these days. In this particular case, Social Security numbers can be used in a wide variety of scams, from unemployment insurance and credit cards to taxes and even loans.

    For example, one of the SSNDOB customers purchased parts of the stolen data and used it to steal almost $10 million in different types of fraud. And that’s just one buyer.

    Only in 2021, American consumers lost nearly $6 billion due to fraud. That’s about 70% more than the numbers for 2020. The respective fraud affected over 2.8 million people. Most of the scams were triggered by identity theft.

    With the evolution of cybercrime and the development of more advanced tools, authorities may need more time to come up with solutions. However, this isn’t up to the law only, but also up to the consumers.

    There are a few things you could do to ensure you won’t be affected by identity theft:

    • Make sure you don’t throw letters, receipts, copies of applications or other documents containing personal data. Instead, shred everything or simply burn documents. Your data flows freely if you just check them into the bin.
    • Keep an eye on your credit reports. If anything looks unusual or you don’t know anything about an entry, double check with the credit agency and fix it as soon as possible. It could be a sign that someone’s already using your details.
    • Beware of common scams, texts or emails coming from impersonators. Sometimes, they look natural and authentic. If you’re not 100% sure, simply contact the respective institution through its official website and double check.

    Bottom line, there are a lot of scams one could run with your personal data. And with millions of people getting affected every year, the truth is most of these issues are caused by a lack of attention and education on crybercrime.

    Author reign3d
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