Police records, IRS filings, bank accounts, drivers license, social security numbers, birth certificates, medical records, bank loan documents…and more.
All of these documents are what criminals need to steal your identity, and your finances.
Crooks have another way of obtaining absolutely thousands of these details, not by hacking into your computer, not by hacking into government buildings, not by hacking into a business server, but simply from a standard modern photocopier.
Copiers manufactured since 2002 contain a hard drive(s) that store documents copied, printed, and faxed on them. Why? These are digital multi-function machines. Just as one example, multiple workers in an office environment may print to the same machine. It needs a way to store things till the person is ready to collect it from the machine, which is usually printed on demand. Add in copy, fax, and other functions, machines like this need a hard drive.
This is all well and good, highly efficient, and complex machinery. Along with this comes expense. To keep costs down, businesses opt to LEASE instead of PURCHASE these office machines.
When the machines reach the end of their effective life cycle, or break down, they go back to the manufacturer’s warehouse to be refurbished, re-leased, or sold off to the highest bidder as surplus.
The hard drives in these machines are never removed. These machines that still contain your critical, core, sensitive information, are floating around out there.
I spend so much time trying to protect people, trying to show you how to keep your information and data protected on your personal computers, we also need to recognize the threats that are out of our hands, for example, as I just wrote in my last column, the recent incidents of major retailers not protecting credit card information as they should.
What are you to do? The next time a bank, government office, doctor, or anyone requires you to provide them with highly sensitive information, bring your original documents to show them, and provide them with your own copies that you made on your home computer and printer. A printer / scanner / copier is readily available for around $100 – $150. It is a worthwhile investment, and puts some of the power back in your hands. These don’t have a hard drive inside, controlled instead by your computer, keeping your documents stored on your computer, where you can delete them after printing if you desire. This isn’t foolproof, however it is better than trusting someone else with your data.