FOX23 Investigates: Danger in the dark web

TULSA, Okla. — Quick facts:

  • The dark web is a hidden portion of the internet.
  • On it, a person can buy items like guns, drugs and identities.
  • FOX23 talked to a former identity thief who used the dark web to open 5,000 credit card accounts and spend three quarters of a million dollars in two and half years.

Your financial information is up for grabs.

A local identity thief told FOX23 it's not a matter of if, but when your personal information is stolen.

FOX23 investigates talked to man who made a living off of stealing passwords, credit cards and more. He told us that isn’t even close to enough. William Jones, or Credit Card Will, as his friends call him is spending time in the Tulsa County Jail. He was arrested for identity theft and unauthorized use of a credit card to name a few. He did it all on the computer.

“If you knew how easy it was to take someone's identity, I mean take their whole life,” Jones said.

William Jones had around 5,000 credit card accounts opened in other people's names at one point.

Now, he is in jail.

Jones said he hasn’t always been like this, though. He has multiple degrees including one in computer science networking. He built his first computer at the age of 11.  However, he lost his job a few years back. With the job, went his car and everything else. He said started using meth and he needed money.

“I didn’t want to be a drug dealer,” Jones said.

So, he used his computer skills instead.

"Someone invited me into the dark web a while back, and I just dove in," he said.

Jones started buying people's personal information on secret websites.

The dark web is a hidden underbelly of the internet that most people use on a daily basis. Jones said the internet a normal user sees everyday makes up only 10 percent of what’s out there. He researched the dark web for a year. He found secret back page websites that allowed him to buy U.S. identities.

He rented a room on the twelfth floor of the Hyatt Regency. He even set up seven computers, a smart TV, credit card writers and identification printers. He powered it all from a solar panel he stuck in the window.

Corporal Matt Rose with the Tulsa Police Department said hackers get information and upload it on secret servers usually housed in Russia.

Then, local scammers get access and buy that information with Bitcoin, an untraceable internet currency.

"It's all out there. I mean, how many Target red cards or Walmart cards are there?” Jones said, “It's all on databases, and these hackers continuously try to hack in until they're successful."

Jones said one site alone carried more than a million U.S. credit cards. He said he could download social security numbers, birthdays and addresses for only $1.54. For $10.99, he said he could get everything, from credit card numbers to email passwords.

Jones said he spent $1,000 getting personal information, but used it to spend $250,000 in just over two years.

He said he could find someone's identity by searching zip codes. He was able to find people he knows.

"I bought his identity, so no one else would," Jones said of a high school classmate.

He said users can buy their own identities to ensure that no one else has the chance to purchase it.

But for those without that skill set, Jones recommends a credit monitoring app that quickly shows charges. He also says frequent password changes help.

"I change mine once a week," he said.

FOX23 looked into what security features may be necessary in the future in order to keep users' identities safe: