ID Theft Protection

Sensei Post in Identity Theft

So you think you are safe…You make sure you protect your credit cards, your receipts, you only shop in trusted stores, you are doing everything right. Where is your old computer? How about your old cellphone? Have you ever lost a USB Key or portable storage device? Not feeling so safe now are you! Well these are valid concerns because the popular (among criminal types) sport of Dumpster Diving is back. In the past hackers and ID Thieves would dive in the dumpster and go through your mail looking for old credit card statements or other identifying information. Well they the sport is back except this time they are going after your old hard drives and storage devices. Yes even phones can be useful if your data and/or address/phone book wasn’t properly deleted. Other reasons for criminals to going through trash bins is the hope of finding customer lists, email addresses, account information and passwords unintentionally left behind on old hard drives, USB flash drives and portable music players. Every user who throws away (or loses) a key chain-size flash drive could be unintentionally leaking critical information to a criminal. Any of the tens of millions of desktop and notebook computers disposed of each year in landfills, junkyards and yard sales could be a rich trove of personal and corporate data left on a hard drive by lazy users or IT departments. Best estimates indicate that over 50 million PCs, laptops, and servers are thrown away every year. The information they hold pose a growing risk for their former owners. This risk is rising because we increasingly dump information onto multiple drives. Most people forget what is stored on old drives. Even data that has been deleted is accessible with the right tools! Most people do not realize that data can be recovered after it has been deleted (yes even after the trash bin on a Windows system has been emptied).
So what is a person to do? First if you are going to use technology take a moment to learn a little about it. To help you out is planning on offering a few free introductory technology courses in the near future. Until then don’t discard your old computers without removing the hard drives. Even if you plan on giving the system to someone it is inexpensive to replace the hard drives. Remember you don’t know what they will do with the computer. If you carry a USB flash drive look into getting an encrypted USB flash drive. Most importantly don’t store any sensitive information on a portable device since you could lose it and you don’t know who may find it! Also put some form of ID on your portable devices like a phone number or email address. Chances are you’ll be safe from this problem but like all self-defense, awareness is 90% of the game. Stay safe and train hard!

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