The people you see on a daily basis — the barista who makes your coffee, the bus driver who takes your kids to school, and the neighbor who waves to you each morning — could all be using fake identities to hide an unsavory past. Just a few years ago, such a scenario would have been a far-fetched plotline reserved for the Netflix series “You”. But recently, the dark web has made it extremely easy for anyone wanting to start a new life to simply buy themselves a brand new identity.
New identity seekers are typically criminals hiding from authorities, but with the current state of global affairs, many new identity seekers are political or economic refugees looking to flee violence or other existential threats in their native land. The common thread is that those willing to secure a new identity illegally via the dark web feel there’s no legal way forward.
The dark web gives new identity seekers unparalleled access to counterfeit and stolen personal documents — things like passports, driving licenses, birth certificates, bank accounts, and even educational documents like bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
All those things must be really expensive, right? Not necessarily.
SafetyDetectives’s research team visited several marketplaces on the dark web, representing over 50 identity brokers, identity thieves, and identity counterfeiters, and compiled the average cost of the necessary documents one would need to start a brand new life with a brand new identity.
The Minimum Cost of a Brand New Identity
Although paying with fiat currencies like the US dollar is an option, many of these dark web-based services require payment made with the flagship cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC). This cryptocurrency was initially used on the dark web as an untraceable payment method to purchase goods or services. While many authorities now have the power to trace BTC transactions, Bitcoin is still the preferred method of payment on many dark web marketplaces.
Even though the relative price of cryptocurrency can fluctuate rapidly, this report’s usage of Bitcoin in conjunction with the US dollar guarantees that the relative prices presented here will be correct as long as the services are still being offered at the same price and assuming Bitcoin and the US dollar stay at a similar market rate.
Comparing the Cost of a New Identity by Country
The cost of an entirely new identity — including a new passport, driving license, birth certificate, educational certificate, financial profile, and counterfeit money — varies.
For starters, not every new identity document is equal. Some passports are genuine, being stolen from bona fide citizens and resold to the new identity seeker. Others are 100% manufactured by the counterfeiter. Likewise, counterfeit money may be genuine, containing government-level watermarks. Others are 100% fake, and if caught, the user will be subject to criminal prosecution. There are no “quality assurance checks” on the dark web. Everything purchased has the potential of being fake, ineffective, and dangerous, and the buyer has every possibility of being defrauded. And, of course, it’s 100% illegal.
Depending on the location where someone wants to relocate, the average cost of a new identity is:
- US$1,300 + 0.26 BTC
Different countries have different standards of living, and the value of obtaining fake identities depends on a variety of factors, including the difficulty of acquiring the documents, the alleged source of the documents, the authenticity of the documents, and the perceived value of the standard of living in the country where the documents purport to be from.
Ranked from least to most expensive, here is the average cost of a fake identity:
- USA — US$1,267 + 0.2683 BTC
- Europe — US$1,370 + 0.2593 BTC
- Canada — US$1,290 + 0.2683 BTC
- United Kingdom — US$1,370 + 0.2861 BTC
- Australia — US$1,470 + 0.4292 BTC
The average cost of a dark web passport varies. Our researchers discovered that passports advertised as “registered”, “authentic”, and “verifiable” were expected to be genuine and, as such, demanded more money. There were also many passports labeled “fake” and “counterfeit” — these were not expected to be genuine and, as such, demanded considerably less money (as low as US$10). This report only considered those expected to be genuine.
Ranked from least to most expensive, here is the average cost of a genuine passport from a developed country purchased on the dark web:
- Australia — US$745
- Canada — US$745
- Europe — US$750
- USA — US$850
European passports are also not created equal. While the average price for a dark web European passport is US$750, each European country has its own average price based on the previously mentioned factors determining the cost of dark web documents.
Ranked from least to most expensive, here is the average cost of a passport from a European country purchased on the dark web:
- Spain — US$690
- France — US$745
- Germany — US$745
- Netherlands — US$745
- Switzerland — US$764
- Norway — US$800
ID/Social Security Card
A passport will only get someone into the country, but in order to be considered a fully functioning member of society, a new identity seeker will need some kind of documentation that they are a registered resident (or citizen). Each country has different specific forms of identification, and all countries use a driver’s license as a general ID card — so both specific and general IDs are essential documents for new identity seekers.
In order to make a case for natural-born citizenship, a new identity seeker needs to be able to show that they were born in this country and that their name/birth date/location of birth matches their new identity. As with genuine citizens, this is an important document when acquiring various country-based services.
Education & Professional Background Documents
A key piece of a new identity is an individual’s fake education and professional background. These documents help new identity seekers start fresh — creating a brand new backstory which can be used to get a job, find a community, and create plausible deniability.
Among the education documents that can be purchased via the dark web are high school diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees. Fixing poor grades is also a common service offered — a D-grade student could have their entire profile changed to all A-grades.
Creating a brand new financial profile is a popular service offered by many dark web marketplaces — anyone can renew their financial status — with brand new bank accounts, new credit cards, a new credit score, and even new PayPal accounts. There are also financial related services that can be purchased on the dark web, like fixing bad credit ratings or providing a counterfeit cash-injection in exchange for Bitcoin.
All of these solutions, again, come from a wide variety of sources. Some bank accounts are stolen, some are legitimate accounts supplied with pre-stolen funds, and some are genuine accounts spread out across multiple owners to make ultimate ownership impossible to trace. Again, it’s impossible to know how authentic any of these things are.
The Estimated Cost of a New Identity by Country
5. USA (Least Expensive)
The minimum cost of a new identity in the United States via the dark web is:
- US$1,267 + 0.2683 BTC
The cost of a US passport bought via the dark web starts at US$710. ID cards and driving licenses start at US$200, and a brand new Social Security Card/Number costs between US$2 – US$5.
Educational certificates or qualifications can be bought using Bitcoin. The average cost of a bachelor’s degree from a US college or university is 0.0984 BTC. If someone is looking to gain their diplomas or degrees legitimately — by actually going to school and studying for them — dark web services can guarantee any person acceptance to a college in the US for an average of 0.618 BTC.
Creating an entirely new financial profile in the US is reasonably cheap in comparison to some of the above-mentioned services. Creating a bank account starts at US$70, obtaining a new credit card starts at US$45, and the minimum cost of fixing credit history is US$200 — very low prices for some of the most important components of a person’s financial identity.
The minimum cost of a new identity in Europe via the dark web is:
- US$1,370 + 0.2593 BTC
The price of a counterfeit European passport starts at US$600 — this is a relatively cheap option depending on which specific European country the passport is for. The cost of a new European driver’s license purchased via the dark web starts at US$305, and an educational package of a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree from a European school costs 0.1699 BTC.
New counterfeit European birth certificates are one of the cheapest options in the developed world, starting at US$220 — this is US$50 cheaper than a counterfeit Australian birth certificate.
The minimum cost of a new financial profile in Europe is the same as all other countries — US$70 for a new bank account, US$45 for a new credit card, and a minimum cost of US$200 to fix current credit rating.
The minimum cost of a new identity in Canada via the dark web is:
- US$1,290 + 0.2683 BTC
Although the cost of a Canadian passport purchased via the dark web is cheaper in comparison to counterfeit US and UK passports — starting at US$660 — the cost of a fake Canadian driving license is more expensive — starting at US$275.
High school diplomas from Canadian schools cost an average of 0.0715 BTC while a bachelor’s degree costs 0.0984 BTC. Guaranteed acceptance into a Canadian college costs 0.618 BTC.
The cost of 5,000 counterfeit Canadian dollars is 0.0984 BTC.
2. United Kingdom
The minimum cost of a new identity in the United Kingdom via the dark web is:
- US$1,370 + 0.2861 BTC
Buying a counterfeit UK passport via the dark web starts at US$710, which is the same average price as a fake US passport. The average cost of a UK driver’s license is the same average as other European countries — US$305 — but cheaper than an Australian driver’s license.
UK birth certificates are slightly cheaper than Australian ones, starting at US$240. Driving licenses are also cheaper in comparison to Australian ones, starting at US$305 in the UK.
The cost of money is similar to both the US and Australia — US$115 for a new bank account and credit card plus 0.1162 BTC for £5,000 of counterfeit cash.
1. Australia (Most Expensive)
The minimum cost of a new identity in Australia via the dark web is:
- US$1,470 + 0.4292 BTC
The cost of buying a counterfeit Australian passport via the dark web starts at US$660, and a counterfeit Australian driver’s license starts at US$420. This is a substantially higher combined average than any other country’s identification cards.
High school diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees from an Australian university start at 0.0715 BTC, and guaranteed acceptance to an Australian university averages 0.618 BTC.
The cost of creating a new financial profile in Australia is the same as all other countries, and AU$5,000 of counterfeit cash costs 0.2593 BTC.
Your Identity May be at Risk of Being Stolen and Sold on the Dark Web
Many of the credentials advertised for sale on the dark web are genuine — meaning they were stolen from a bona fide citizen and illegally sold to a new identity seeker. Credit card details, email logins, bank accounts, passports, PayPal accounts, and driving licenses are stolen every day because most people — including most of the companies we trust to keep our data safe — are unprepared to deal with the rising issue of cybercrime.
When a hacker steals another person’s identity and resells it, the victim of the identity theft is left devastated — their bank accounts get depleted, their credit rating gets destroyed, and their lives become ruined. These are traumatic experiences that people often never recover from. You should find an insurance plan which offers guaranteed protection against the increasing threat of identity theft.
Stay Updated on the Latest Cybersecurity Trends
As you become increasingly connected to the digital world, it’s important to stay vigilant and aware of all the invisible dangers hiding on the web.
If you want to increase the level of security across your desktop and mobile devices, read through some of our top antivirus, anti-spyware, and password manager reviews, including Norton, Dashlane, Bitdefender, and Malwarebytes.
All dark web data and prices were pulled from SafetyDetectives’s dark web research team.
You are free to use the images and text from this article, with proper attribution to SafetyDetectives.