CRIMINALS can access the personal details of more than 10,000 people living in Malvern and Upton-upon-Severn on the so-called ‘dark web’.
Details ranging from home addresses to bank account numbers are being held on 8,768 people living in postcode areas WR13 and
WR14 (Malvern and wider Malvern) according to C6 Intelligence, the company which carried out the search for the Observer.
Information can also be accessed on a further 1,414 people living in WR8 (Upton).
A total of 884 cases of information classed as ‘high risk’ from the three areas are up for sale including credit card numbers, passwords and security answers for online accounts.
During their search C6 Intelligence also found nearly 345 residents’ credit card numbers, 69 of which came with the three-digit security code printed on the back of bank cards.
A total of 453 e-mail and password combinations were available to buy according to the probe, as were 11 account numbers and five answers to security questions.
The dates of birth of 70 residents are also on the web.
Alarmingly, all of the material is easy to access for those in the know, according to Darren Innes, chief executive officer at C6 Intelligence.
“As members of the public we only see between ten and 20 per cent of the Internet,” he said. “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, finding it readily available on social media websites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
He added: “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.”
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 recommended changing passwords regularly and having a different password for each online account.
Residents can visit www.hasmyidentitybeenstolen.com and run a free search to see if their personal details are for sale.