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Experian and many other companies are pushing “dark web scans.” They promise to search the dark web for your personal information to see if criminals are selling it. Don’t waste your money.

What is the Dark Web?

The “dark web” consists of hidden websites that you can’t access without special software. These websites won’t appear when you use Google or another search engine, and you can’t even access them unless you go out of your way to use the appropriate tools.

For example, the Tor software can be used for anonymous browsing of the normal web, but it also hides special sites known as “.onion sites” or “Tor hidden services.” These websites use Tor to cloak their location, and you only access them through the Tor network.

RELATED: What Is the Dark Web?

There are legitimate uses for Tor hidden services. For example, Facebook offers a Tor .onion site at facebookcorewwwi.onion, which you can only access while connected to Tor. This allows people in countries where Facebook is blocked to access Facebook. The DuckDuckGo search engine is available at a Tor hidden service address, too. This could also help evade government censorship.

But the dark web is also used for criminal activities. If you’re going to sell databases of people’s credit card and social security numbers online, you want to hide your location so the authorities won’t swoop in. That’s why criminals often sell this data on the dark web. It’s the same reason why the infamous Silk Road website, and online black market for drugs and other illicit things, was only available through Tor.

They’re Not Scanning the Entire Dark Web

Let’s get one thing straight: These services are not scanning the entire dark web for your data. That’s just impossible.

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