Prices rise for your data on the black market

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Your credit card is worth more to crooks on the Internet today than it was last year.

You might think the law of supply and demand would put downward pressure on prices. More stolen cards should equal cheaper black market prices. But that’s not the case, and the reason might surprise you.

It all comes down to criminal customer service.

“The reason for the kind of increase is the guarantee that you’re getting a card that works,” says David Shear, information security research adviser for the counterthreat unit at SecureWorks, an information security firm in Atlanta.

Crooks want to make sure they’re not getting bum card numbers that have already been cancelled. So they’re willing to pay a premium.

How much is your data worth?
Hacker service Price
Visa or MasterCard credentials $7
Credit card with magnetic stripe or chip data $15
Premium American Express, Discover Card, MasterCard or Visa with strip or chip data $30
Bank account credentials (balance of $15,000) $500
Bank account credentials (balance of $70,000 to $150,000) 6% of account balance
Large U.S. airline points accounts 1.5 million points cost $450
Large international hotel chain points account 1 million points cost $200

Source: SecureWorks

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Indeed, the price for Visa and MasterCard credentials increased from $4 in 2014 to $7 today, according to SecureWorks’ 3rd annual Underground Hacker Markets annual report. The price for Visa or MasterCard credentials that also include data from the magnetic stripe or chip — like the expiration date and cardholder name — rose as well, from $12 to $15.

But here’s the worse news out of the bad news: Canadian and European cards fetch more money on the black market than U.S. cards because there’s less access to credit in foreign markets and it’s harder to steal foreign credit card information, Shear says. Adding chips to our debit and credit cards hasn’t yet had an impact.

Airline and hotel points sell, too

Passports, banking information and even frequent flier points are also available on the black market. Shear says criminals may steal customer rewards data for hotels and airlines from 3rd-party vendors and then seek to sell it on the Internet.

The buyers aren’t looking to use those points for a free hotel stay. Instead, they’re trading the points for gift cards on legitimate websites — or cashing them in illegally.

From the report:

“Scammers also have the potential of cashing out airline points for cash via online businesses called mileage brokers. Although that activity is deemed a no-no with the airlines, scammers are clearly not worried about breaking any of their rules since they are purchasing stolen points in the first place.”

The going rate depends on the type of rewards program and the number of points available. Hotel rewards accounts with 100,000 points sell for $20, while a frequent flyer account with 300,000 points or miles could sell for $90, making airline rewards slightly more valuable.

How to protect yourself

Consumers alone can’t prevent hackers and thieves from stealing their data. But they can practice safe banking. To protect yourself, SecureWorks says consumers should:

  • Use a computer dedicated to online banking or billpay. The computer should not be used for email or surfing the web.
  • Subscribe to a credit-monitoring service that alerts you when someone applies for new credit or bank accounts in your name or when credit balances exceed the norm.
  • Make sure anti-virus software is current.
  • Avoid clicking on links or attachments within emails from unknown or untrusted sources.