A new study revealed that the identity of hundreds of Dutch youth has been exposed online, specifically on the darknet. Criminals have accessed personal selfies of Dutch youth posting pictures of their driver license information. The pictures are being misused for identity fraud. Identity theft crime doubles every year, making it the largest growing form of online crime associated with the darknet marketplaces. According to the Dutch researchers, one of the common DNM threads for vendors is selling the identity of a person in order to open a credit card account.
Over the past few months, 50 youth in the Netherlands have been identified as victims of identity fraud. They each posted a selfie of their driver license on Instagram. Little did they know that their social media celebration was, in fact, an invitation for hackers to interfere with the fun. It is now a popular trend for young people to celebrate milestones on social media and especially in the Netherlands, Dutch youth have made it a custom to post their passing driver license test on the net. These pictures are sometimes hashtagged: #rijbewijs, #geslaagd, or #rijbewijsbewijs (license/successful/driver license). Those hashtags make it easy for hackers to find the pictures on such a public platform, and the images themselves are very high quality and clear.
On darknet marketplaces, criminals offer these selfies for sale. The prices vary between 50 and 80 euros for a package with approximately 20 selfies. A driver license is sold on average for 2.50 euros each. The transaction is made with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. According to research, the driver permit is of a higher demand on the dark web, thereby triggering the vendors to download more teen selfies on Instagram.
Identity theft is nothing new to the world of crime. However, now as a cybercrime, there is no end to the crimes committed. Today it is driver licenses in the Netherlands, but in the past year victims of all kinds of identity theft have been made in large numbers, including data from health care providers, ATM credit cards and taxpayer information.
There are other tricks hackers use to con people out of driver license information. According to Haarlem Wilfred, he thought he was buying a pair of shoes for his wife. So instead of paying 35 Euros for a brand new pair, once he provided personal details including his driver license, he never heard from the vendor or saw the shoes again.
“You always hear warnings for identity fraud,” Haarlem said. “Yet, I somehow got stuck paying for a 1,000 Euro phone bill contract and could not get out of it. I thought, maybe this could be okay, but it only has caused me trouble,” he said.
All 53 identified driver license selfie-takers have been notified. “I had not thought about this, thank you,” a student by the name of Lara sent in a private message. She immediately removed her photo too. Yet, another student wrote in that she did not care at all and it did not bother her. Most of the 50+ individuals did not respond at all to the authorities.
Per the Central Reporting Point Identity Fraud and Errors (CMI), Darknet Marketplaces and other trade websites are focusing more on these types of cyber activities because the governments are focusing on drugs and weapons trading. Every year hundreds of cases of this form of fraud are involved, and that number is continuously increasing on a daily basis with little to no repercussions noticed. Last year, counterfeit passports sold on the darknet at a very lower price.
According to the CMI, many people think or assume it is harmless to provide someone with your license identity number. It is not, however.
“With your numbers, anyone can simply pretend to be you, without even showing proof,” a CMI agent said. “Criminals succeed because vendors take their word in the moment that the number and the name are being represented, even without the card to prove it.”
The CMI advises individuals to keep all personal data with them at all times. Moreover, if a photocopy is made, the CMI recommends to keep that on the individual too and not inside the glove compartment of the automobile, in the case, it is broken into. The same applies to passports, identity cards, social security numbers, etc. Keep all information in a safe space! Hidden is the only true form of anonymity.
Some apps help protect individuals. For example, the KopieID app auto-fills applications and blacks out the information unnecessary to provide. Moreover, any photocopy made with this app prints a watermark on the document to prevent it being used as an original source. This app is provided by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.