Our passports are a vital piece of identification. But at any time that you’re required to produce your passport — at immigration checkpoints or some international hotel check-ins — your passport image is scanned and stored on a computer. The scary part is that it may lack sufficient security, all it takes is one rogue employee to upload those scans (which includes your photo, passport number, and date of birth) to dark-web marketplaces.
According to a new study from the research firm Comparitech, passport details can sell for an average of $14.71. If scammers were to get their hands on other personal documents and also put them up for sale, the average cost for this package of documents could jump up to more than $61.
Passport scans, whether they’re the real deal or a forged copy, are almost always accompanied by other forms of identification — usually in the form of a utility bill, a driver’s license, or a selfie of the ID card owner holding up their ID. These add-ons are reflected in the price — they cost significantly more than just a digital scan.
There is a reason for this — multiple forms of ID are usually required to pass proof-of-address and proof-of-identification checks on websites. These checks are often a part of the account recovery process, where a user has somehow lost access to their account and must prove who they are to regain access.
These account access scams mostly target payment systems and vetting websites and cryptocurrency exchanges, the research found. However, criminals can also use your passport scan to open fraudulent bank accounts to collect the sign-up rewards or for money laundering purposes.
On the bright side, theft of scanned passport images doesn’t appear to be prolific. When the research team visited four different dark-web sites that sell stolen identification in September 2018, they found only 48 listings for real passport scams. It included several passports from the US, one of which included a selfie and was listed for sale for a price of $115.
Comparitech offers these ways in which to protect yourself from falling victim to passport scan theft:
- Provide your copy of the passport if you can do so and make sure it’s a black-and-white scan. This deters scammers because they mostly want colored prints.
- Don’t post the inside of your passport on social media.
- Dispose and destroy expired passports.
- Don’t leave your passport inside checked luggage.
- Keep your passport in a safe, locked place if you leave it in a hotel room.
- Don’t store scans of your passport on your phone. It’s better to encrypt and store scans on a separate hard drive or in the cloud.
- Keep your passport separate from other identifying documents that can also be used to steal your identity.
To save yourself the worry of having your passport details stolen, it is best to make use of Identity Protection services. Identity Protection services work night and day to make sure that your personal information will never fall into the wrong hands. After all, there is a saying that prevention is better than cure, so why not give yourself the advantage of identity protection.