Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
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Shelley Osterloh reportingHere's something to think about.
It's the fastest growing crime in this country.
We're going to show you something you probably haven't thought of. Something else you need to know to Stay Safe.
Identity theft is a crime of opportunity. Rarely do thieves go after someone. They steal what's easy to get their hands on.
And many of us hand it right over to them.
Stop and think for moment about what you do on your computer.
Computers have been around long enough for most of us to have gone through a few. Maybe you've given an old computer to a second hand shop.
Derek Davis, White Canyon Software "Of the three computers.. Everyone of them booted into windows. Without any problem. We were able to find personal information on them. On this computer we found bank information, bank account numbers... We found the person's name, address, phone numbers... Everything we wanted"
Davis is part of team of computer forensic experts who bought some used computers to show us just how easy it is to steal personal information from well meaning people.
Derek Davis: "They don't realize there are people who go out and buy them specifically to find this information about them"
One of the old computers belonged to a Salt Lake teenager who used it mostly for school papers. But before she got it, her parents had used it for the family budget and tax preparation --- lots of personal information there.
Steve Elderkin, White Canyon Software: " Probably the number one thing that is most damaging. Almost everyone now who is computer savvy will keep track of their finances on their computer. Those programs are password protected...people get a false sense of security ... All of those passwords can be broken"
But one computer was the payload.
Derek Davis: "About 200 names, addresses and social security numbers. Just in a list that we were able to reconstruct"
The computer belonged to a local company that went bankrupt --- That list of employees and their personal information was supposedly deleted
Derek Davis:"When you delete a file ... It kind of tells the computer that the file is gone.. But its still there. Its still accessible until something else takes it place."
The computer had been used by an attorney for the company.
It contained lots of personal information --- family names, health information, his work contract and resume..... plus confidentiality agreements and contracts.
When told about it --- he was shocked.
Man on phone: “That's scary. I guess you have to make sure that when you leave someone's employ... That any information on that computer... Should be wiped off.. Because you don't know where that computer is going to migrate from. “
Steve Elderkin, Computer Forensic Specialist: “Exactly.. Yeah."
Steve Elderkin of Orem is computer expert who worked for the FBI and the Secret Service digging secret information out of criminal's computers.
He's developed a program called Wipe Drive that thoroughly erases information, and he warns that unless properly eliminated --- anything on your computer can be retrieved.
Steve Elderkin, White Canyon Software: "That is why personal identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America... Because all our data is stored on a computers.. And the scary part is... even the home computer"
Remember, formatting your hard drive does not remove or erase your data. If you plan to get rid of a computer, you should consider buying a product like this that can permanently remove information.-- there are many on the market.
There are also products you can use to periodically clean your computer of things like cookies or spyware.