Cyber criminals can buy passports on the ‘dark web’ for as little as $15, study finds
Are you a convicted felon who has dreams of traveling abroad? Or a cybercriminal looking to set up a legitimate bank account into which you can deposit your ill-gotten funds? Then buying a passport off the dark web is an option that you should consider!
But while in the past forged or stolen passports would fetch a hefty sum on the black market, thanks to the modern marvel that is the dark web, prices have fallen significantly. Last month, Comparitech analyzed listings on a handful of illicit marketplaces to try and determine exactly how much a passport or passport scan can fetch in the seediest corners of the Internet. Their analysts scoured marketplaces like Dream Market, Berlusconi Market, Wall Street Market and Tochka Free Market, among others.
During their search, they discovered that passport scans, which are often enough for a scammer or criminal to set up a bank account in another person’s name, can be purchased for as little as $15. For slightly more, an aspiring criminal can purchase a passport and drivers license scan – which would be enough to open an account on a cryptocurrency exchange or – better yet – hack into the account of an unsuspecting trader by exploiting password recovery tools.
However, real passports still fetch a hefty sum, and even forgeries can be prohibitively expensive for some.
Here are Comparitech’s key findings:
- The average price of a digital passport scan is $14.71.
- If proof of address or proof of identification —a selfie, utility bill and/or driver’s license—is added to a passport scan, the average price jumps to $61.27.
- Australian passport scans were the most common, and yet, the most expensive ($32).
- The average price of a real, physical passport is $13,567.
- The average price of a counterfeit, physical passport is $1,478.
Real or forged, passport scans are typically accompanied by other forms of identification – a utility bill, selfie of the ID card owner holding up their ID or a driver’s license. But they cost significantly more than the passport scan alone – often upwards of $60. But scammers get what they pay for: Because multiple forms of ID are usually required to bypass proof-of-address and proof-of-identification controls on websites. But if a user has one, they can seize control of the account of another individual, assuming the documents are in the correct name.
The bulk of Comparitech’s analysis focused on digital scans and images of real passports. The site’s researchers found 48 unique listings for real passports scans, 38 of which were not sold with any accompanying proof of ID or address, spanning 20 countries. While they found no discernible pattern in pricing relative to supply or the power of the country’s passport, they did discover the Australian passports were the most common and the most expensive…