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Is My Email on the Dark Web? How To Tell & What To Do

Did you get a notification that your email was found on the Dark Web? Learn what scammers can do with your leaked email address and how to protect yourself.

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      What Does It Mean If Your Email Address Is on the Dark Web?

      Last December, millions of email addresses from Twitter users were leaked and listed for sale on the Dark Web. At least 235 million users had their private information stolen in the attack, including pop singer Shawn Mendez, model Cara Delevingne, and politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [*].

      But Twitter users aren’t the only ones vulnerable to data breaches that expose personal emails on the Dark Web. 

      There were 1,862 publicly reported data breaches in 2022 impacting 422 million individuals – the highest number ever for a single year [*].

      If your email is found on the Dark Web, criminals can use it to target you with phishing scams, attempt to hack your accounts, and worse. 

      In this guide, we’ll explain what to do if your email was found on the Dark Web, how to tell if it’s been compromised, and what you can do to secure your personal information and online accounts from cybercriminals.


      How To Find Out If Your Email Is on the Dark Web

      The Dark Web is a hidden part of the internet that isn’t accessible through standard web browsers or search engines (like Google and Bing). Instead, Dark Web sites and forums can only be accessed via the Tor browser — an encrypted web browser that hides users’ identities and histories. 

      This level of anonymity is why so many criminals use the Dark Web to buy, sell, and trade stolen and leaked information. If your email address is circulating on the Dark Web, it’s almost certainly due to a data breach.

      The problem is that the average internet user doesn’t use the Dark Web — and therefore doesn’t know if their data is compromised. 

      Here’s how you can find out if your email address or other sensitive information is on the Dark Web:

      • Wait for a notification from breached companies. Companies are legally required to notify impacted users of data breaches, but many wait as long as possible or try to downplay the severity of the hack. It’s also common for scammers to send out fake data breach notifications in order to get you to click on phishing links.
      • Use a free Dark Web scanner to find leaked passwords and email addresses. Aura’s Dark Web scanner checks to see if any of your passwords have been compromised. Other services like HaveIBeenPwned can also check to see if your email was exposed in any data breaches. Scanners are free and easy to use — all you have to do is input your email address.
      • Install a browser scanner. A data breach scanner like Firefox Monitor can provide you with continuous monitoring and update you if your email address is involved in any new data breaches. It also provides individualized advice on what to do for your accounts if you are affected by a breach.
      • Sign up for a 24/7 Dark Web monitoring service. Most free Dark Web scanners are one-time services that only search for emails and passwords. A Dark Web monitoring service like Aura checks for all of your sensitive information on the Dark Web — including passwords, your Social Security number (SSN), banking details, and more — and will send you notifications if anything is leaked.
      • Monitor your personal information closely. By regularly checking your bank statements and credit reports, you can catch scammers quickly. If you notice any suspicious activity, it’s a sign that your email address may have been compromised on the Dark Web.
      ⚡️ Shut down scammers fast. Aura’s award-winning digital security solution warns you in near real-time if your email, Social Security number (SSN), or other personal data ends up on the Dark Web — and helps you safeguard your identity and accounts against scammers. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      What To Do If Your Email Is on the Dark Web

      If your email is leaked on the Dark Web, it’s cause for concern — but don’t panic just yet. 

      Here are a few steps that you can take to protect yourself and help minimize any damage:

      1. Change your passwords
      2. Enable 2FA on all of your online accounts
      3. Use Safe Browsing tools
      4. Review your account statements and credit report
      5. Freeze or lock your credit with all three bureaus
      6. File a report with the FTC
      7. Do a full Dark Web scan
      8. Set up an email alias to protect your main inbox
      9. Consider signing up for identity theft protection

      1. Change your passwords

      Scammers can use your email address to find more information about you on the Dark Web, including passwords that may have been leaked. Unfortunately, if your email is circulating on the Dark Web, this means that all of your associated online accounts are potentially vulnerable.

      How to protect your login information after a data breach:

      • Update all of your passwords, and use a passphrase instead. Many cybersecurity experts recommend using a passphrase rather than a completely random string of letters and numbers. Passphrases tend to be easier to remember and harder to crack — for example, “L0rD0Fth3R1nG$.”
      • Make sure you’re not reusing passwords across multiple accounts. Many people use the same or similar password combinations across multiple accounts because it’s easier to remember, but this makes you an easy victim for hackers. Once cybercriminals get one of your passwords, they’ll often attempt to use it to gain entry into your other accounts as well.
      • Store all of your passwords in a secure password manager. Avoid writing down your passwords on a piece of paper or storing them on your device, since these methods aren’t secure. Instead, a password manager keeps all of your online credentials in a single, secure location and can even warn you if they’ve been compromised in a data breach.

      2. Enable 2FA on all of your online accounts

      If scammers use your email address to find leaked passwords, it’s only a matter of time before they try to log in to your online accounts. One of the best ways to block them from actually getting in is to enable two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA).

      2FA typically requires you to input a one-time password or an SMS code that is sent to your device. This provides an extra barrier against scammers — they’ll often give up and move on to their next victim. However, it’s always better to use a dedicated authenticator app (rather than rely on SMS codes), such as Authy or Google Authenticator. 

      💡 Related: How Does Two Factor Authentication (2FA) Work? Do I Need It?

      3. Use Safe Browsing tools to protect yourself from phishing sites

      If your email address is leaked, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll start receiving more spam and scam emails. Many of these phishing attacks try to get you to click on links that take you to fake websites designed to steal your passwords and credit card or account numbers. 

      Example of a phishing email designed to steal your Instagram login details. Source: Aura team
      Example of a phishing email designed to steal your Instagram login details. Source: Aura team

      Tools like Aura’s Safe Browsing will automatically stop you if you’re about to enter a malware or phishing site that’s likely to steal your personal information. 

      Other online tools that can help safeguard you from scams and identity theft:

      • Virtual Private Network (VPN). Public Wi-Fi networks are notoriously easy to hack. A VPN allows you to hide your IP address and browse securely, even when you’re connected outside of your home (like at hotels, restaurants, or other public places).
      • Antivirus software. Scammers often use malware to gain access to your computer and steal your information. Antivirus software helps prevent, detect, and remove malware from your devices.
      • Password manager. If you have your passwords hastily written down on sticky notes, throw them out and get a password manager instead. Aura’s password manager and other options like LastPass are excellent alternatives that are more secure than pen and paper.
      🏆 Get award-winning digital security. Aura’s all-in-one solution combines a full suite of digital security tools with award-winning identity theft protection, $1 million identity theft insurance, and more. Try Aura free for 14 days and secure yourself and your family against cybercriminals and scammers.

      4. Review your account statements and credit report

      Losing money is one of the worst potential risks when it comes to leaked personal information. It’s important to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity on your account statements and credit reports.

      Set aside time on a monthly or even weekly basis to review your account activity, especially after a data breach. Even better, sign up for a credit monitoring service that will do this for you automatically.

      💡 Related: What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed Out Of Money

      5. Freeze or lock your credit with all three bureaus

      If you notice any suspicious activity when reviewing your finances, a credit freeze is an absolute must. Freezing your credit prevents anyone from accessing your credit file, which can also stop scammers from impersonating you and opening new accounts in your name.  

      To request a credit freeze, you’ll need to contact each of the three credit bureaus separately (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).

      Here’s how to freeze your credit reports with all three bureaus:

      Experian Security Freeze — P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
      Equifax Information Services LLC — P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
      TransUnion LLC – P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

      6. File a report with the FTC and any other impacted organization

      After learning that your email was found on the Dark Web, if you notice any signs of fraud — such as bank activity that you know wasn’t you — reporting it is crucial. You can report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). In some cases, you might also need to report fraud to your local authorities.

      7. Do a full Dark Web scan to see what other information was leaked

      Unfortunately, if your email address is on the Dark Web, there’s often more information about you that has also been exposed. A free Dark Web scanner can give you an idea of how many of your email addresses and passwords have been compromised; but scans are limited in detecting what other sensitive data of yours may be circulating on the Dark Web.

      A Dark Web monitoring service like Aura performs regular Dark Web scans. Aura consistently monitors forums, marketplaces, and other pages on the Dark Web to check if any other personal information was leaked.

      8. Set up an email alias to protect your main inbox

      An email alias is a secondary email that routes mail into your main inbox — while protecting your main email address from scammers. This way, if your alias is ever exposed on the Dark Web, your entire email account won’t be at risk.

      How to use an email alias:

      • Set up an email alias (or multiple ones) through your email provider. Aura can also automatically set up email aliases and enable forwarding for you.
      • When you need to create an account to use (or make purchases from a website), use your email alias instead of your primary email to sign up.
      • If your email alias is ever involved in a data breach, you can remove it from your account and create a new alias while keeping the same inbox.

      💡 Related: What Can Scammers Do With Your Personal Info? (Name and Address)

      9. Consider signing up for identity theft protection

      If you’ve completed all of these steps but still feel like you need more security, signing up for an identity protection provider like Aura can help put your mind at ease. 

      These services monitor your financial accounts, credit reports, Social Security number (SSN), and more — and send notifications if your information is detected anywhere on the Dark Web.

      Here are just a few things that Aura’s award-winning identity theft protection solution can do for you:

      • Monitor the Dark Web for any leaked personal data. Aura utilizes AI to regularly scan millions of pages, forums, and marketplaces on the Dark Web. You’ll receive fast Dark Web alerts in near real-time if any of your personal information has been leaked.
      • Monitor public records for your name, driver’s license, SSN, and other sensitive information. With Aura, you’ll be able to quickly find out if cybercriminals are using your identity or if your SSN is on the Dark Web.
      • Remove your personal details from data broker lists. Data brokers collect and sell your data, which is often how it falls into the hands of scammers. Aura checks hundreds of broker databases — and requests that your personal information be removed.
      🥇 Don’t settle for second-best scam protection. Aura’s award-winning solution provides all-in-one security against identity theft, fraud, and all of the biggest cyber threats. Try Aura free for 14 days and give yourself peace of mind.

      What Can Hackers Do With Your Email Address?

      With your email address in hand, there are numerous ways that hackers can try to scam you. Here are some of the most common:

      • Target you with spear phishing emails. Once cybercriminals have your email address, they research the kinds of services you use by looking to see what accounts you have. Then, they create emails that appear to come from providers of those services.
      • Gather information for social engineering attacks. Your email address is likely linked to multiple online accounts, comments you’ve posted, and other information you’ve shared. This gives cybercriminals plenty of material with which to try and manipulate you.
      • Spoof your email and impersonate you. Scammers can “spoof” your email address by creating a fake address that looks like yours. For example, they may switch out letters to similar-looking numbers or add a period at the end of your address. Scammers can then use that email address to target people you know.
      • Use your email to hack your other online accounts. Once they have your email address, scammers can request password resets to hack into your other online accounts.
      • Find more information about you to steal your identity. If your email address has been leaked, chances are there’s more personal information about you floating around on the Dark Web — like financial account information, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and your SSN.
      • Find your financial information. One of the most common ways scammers use your email address is to hack into your bank accounts and steal your money.
      • Blackmail you with sensitive information. Cybercriminals can hack into your email account and trick you into installing malware on your device that gives them access to all of your files. They can then use any sensitive information or content to blackmail you into sending them money.
      • Gain access to your company email. Hackers often attempt to access your work emails, as well. In worst-case scenarios, they use whaling phishing tactics to target other employees or even executives in your company.

      Can You Remove Your Email Address From the Dark Web?

      Unfortunately, once your email address has been leaked, there’s really no way to remove it from the Dark Web. But if you’re in this situation, all hope is not lost.

      The best thing you can do is understand exactly what information has been compromised and then take action to update your cybersecurity — such as by creating new passwords and enabling 2FA.

      How To Keep Your Personal Information Off of the Dark Web

      Data breaches are at an all-time high, meaning most people are at risk of having their information leaked. The best way to protect yourself is to prevent hackers from getting your information in the first place. 

      Here are a few steps that you can take to keep yourself safe:

      • Use an email alias when signing up for new accounts; and when in doubt, avoid including your SSN or other sensitive information on application forms.
      • Reduce your online footprint by being extremely intentional about what you share on social media. You should also restrict your privacy settings so that only people you’ve specifically added can see your profiles.
      • Use a password manager to manage all of your login credentials — and try to use a new, complex password combination for every account.
      • When using public Wi-Fi, download a VPN on your device that will prevent cybercriminals from intercepting your data.

      These are just a few critical steps that you can take to prevent your information from landing on the Dark Web. But if you want even more assurance, signing up for an identity theft protection provider is one of the most effective ways to keep yourself safe from cybercriminals.

      Aura’s award-winning identity protection includes 24/7 Dark Web monitoring, three-bureau credit monitoring with the industry’s fastest fraud alerts3, and a proactive suite of online security tools. 

      If your information does end up getting leaked, you’ll receive ultra-fast notifications — along with $1 million in insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft, and round-the-clock access to U.S.-based Fraud Resolution Specialists who will help you get the situation under control.

      Stop scammers from stealing your identity. Try Aura free for 14 days.
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