Is Your Check Book On The Curb
This is an article about people throwing away their home computers with all their financial and banking information on them and easily accessible. A very simple first step to financial and identity theft and it happens all the time. Computer Disposal and Identity Theft go hand in hand.
Since Hurricane Wilma, our city has stepped up bulk trash pickup to every month. Bulk pickup is when you can put out pretty much anything; dressers, vacuum cleaners, and of course computers. Early in the morning on each bulk pickup day people come around with pickup trucks to see what they can grab prior to the city trucks showing up. Some are looking for throwaways that can be refurbished and re-soled, while others work for charities that are looking to provide less fortunate people with items that are useful.
Identity Theft & Home Computer Disposal
This morning my wife reminds me that not only is it trash day, it is bulk pickup day (And for some people, possibly Identity Theft day). So I take out the trash and put out the other large items. As I approach the curb, a truck full of discarded goodies pulls around the corner. He asks me if I am throwing that stuff, and if so could he put it on his truck. I said sure, and lifted it on to an already huge pile of discards. When he drove away, guess what I saw on top of the pile, three desktop computers, and one laptop. From the look of them, they were a few years old. I wonder why they were put out on the curb? Where they inoperable, or did their owner just get tired of how slow they were and bought a new one? Even if they weren’t working quite right, I wonder how much effort it would take to repair them, probably not much.
Throwing Away your Computer, Money, and Identity
Jackson Morgan, a contributing author for Defending The Net, wrote an article called “Computer Disposal – Throwing Away Your Computer, Money, and Identity” a few months ago. In this article, he interviewed people at the dump to see what was on their discarded computers. And the results were quite surprising, actually, to us they were not surprising. And now I am writing this article to give you my own personal experience / observation
Do You Take Computer Security and Identity Theft Seriously
There are so many articles written about wireless security, Internet security, and computer security and how your identity and private information can be stolen. Some people are really concerned about this. I wonder how many of those discarded PC’s on the truck this morning had owners that secured their wireless Internet connection? I wonder how many of those computers had their hard drives removed or destroyed. More importantly, I found myself wondering where those computers were going to end up?
Someone Just Sold A Thief Your Checking Account
Let’s think up a reasonable and viable scenario. Let’s say that this gentleman is working with a charity. This charity takes discarded, yet useful items and cleans them up and distributes them to people who are less fortunate or down on their luck. One of the PC’s really had no problems except that it was loaded with Spyware and Adware and needed a thorough cleaning inside and out. This was a great find, the Operating System is intact, and it’s full of useful applications. Applications like Microsoft Office, and more importantly, QuickBooks. The computer is given to someone who cannot afford such a convenience, and all is well. Then about a week goes buy and something pops up on the screen. What do we have here, a QuickBooks reminder and notification of account balances. And look at that, a checking account with $80,000 in it. I wonder what else this computer contains. And were going to find out because there is no password to get into the application.
I don’t know about you, and I am sure several people are going to think I’m being harsh with my following statements, but this scenario scares the you know what out of me. This does not apply to all those who are down on their luck, but how many people in a situation like this would ignore the information or be tempted to further investigate it. What if they already have little to lose? What could they do with this information and access to someone else’s financial information. Maybe they don’t do anything with it directly, but there is someone they know who would be willing to pay for access to a bank account with $80,000 in it. Not to mention the rest of the information that is most likely on the computer. Wouldn’t be ironic if your financial information fell into the hands of a thief for $300? All because someone else was trying to help someone out.
I find it quite strange that many people are concerned about the technical aspect of security yet overlook the most basic things. Do yourself a favor, before putting a computer out on the curb, take out the hard drive and label it “destroy” and take it to local metal shop when you have a chance. They can cut in into tiny little pieces or melt it down for you. Don’t think because you have just a home PC that you don’t need to have a userID and password to login to it. You do need this, for many reasons. Also, buy yourself an inexpensive paper shredder and make sure to shred all your important, but no longer needed paper documents. If you think you can’t lose everything you have worked for over the last 10 to 20 years by making just a tiny mistake your are quite mistaken.
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