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What to do if your Social Security number was found on the dark web

Many members of the UC Berkeley community have recently received alerts from Experian that their Social Security numbers were found on the dark web

Sather Gate
UC Berkeley's Sather Gate (Photo by Peg Skorpinski)

Many members of the UC Berkeley community have recently received alerts from Experian that their Social Security numbers were found on the dark web, a part of the web that does not show up in online searches.

This occurred following news from the University of California about a cyberattack impacting the UC and hundreds of other organizations.

Individuals who have not yet signed up for the free credit and identity monitoring, and consequently who may not be aware of potential exposure of their information, should sign up now, said Jenn Stringer, Berkeley’s associate vice chancellor for IT and chief information officer. For help with enrolling, call (866) 617-1923 and reference engagement number DB26512.

Stringer acknowledged that receiving a message from a credit monitoring service about your Social Security number being found on the dark web can be unsettling. She received one herself and advises everyone to continue to check their notifications and follow the instructions (for Experian, you can call its customer care line at 877-890-9332 for further assistance).

Anthony D. Joseph, a Berkeley engineering professor and an expert in cybersecurity, noted the importance of the Experian alerts. “The alerts provide you with important and specific information that you should then act on to help protect your credit and identity,” he said. “The sooner you are notified, and take action, the better.”

Both Stringer and Joseph strongly recommend that individuals with their Social Security numbers found on the dark web do the following:

  • Create a mySocial Security account with the Social Security Administration. You are doing this to claim your Social Security number and ward off anyone else from creating an account in your name. Review your earnings on your Social Security Statement to ensure your information is correct. Note: If you have a freeze implemented on your credit, you need to lift it before creating a new mySocial Security account.
  • Get your free credit reports from Check for any accounts or charges you don’t recognize. Continue to check your reports annually, in addition to any regular alerts you signed up for.
  • Check your bank and credit card accounts daily. Make sure you recognize all the transactions listed. Pay particular attention to small transactions, or sign up for transaction monitoring alerts from your financial services institutions that can alert you to any suspicious activity in your bank, credit union or credit card accounts.
  • Create a fraud alert. Place a free fraud alert on your credit accounts by contacting any of the key credit agencies: Equifax , Experian or TransUnion.
  • Consider placing a free credit freeze via the three credit agencies. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name.
    • If you place a freeze, be ready to take a few extra steps the next time you apply for a new credit card or for any service that requires a credit check.
  • Report any Social Security number theft. Be aware that tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Report the theft of the Social Security number to the IRS (link is external), or you can call 1-800-908-4490.

Additional detailed information is available and the video recording of a recent town hall. In the meantime, campus IT officials encourage everyone to report any suspicious email or telephone calls by contacting IT staff at [email protected] .