Modern computer recycling is simple and widespread, as computers can be easily refurbished in order to provide computers that are older but still functional to countries in the developing world. Importantly, if you sell or give away your computer, the person who receives it will have unrestricted access to all of your stored personal information. If you leave your computer on the street for anyone to take, they will also have access to this private information.
In a time when it is so simple to steal someone’s identity with such a small amount of information, and when companies are reaping the benefits of “ID Theft Prevention” plans, it is sad to think that an intelligent adult would forget how much personal information is stored on their computer. Every time you enter and save a small piece of personal information into a computer, it remains on the hard drive, and it typically takes a computer expert to wipe the hard drive clean of all the tiny bits of personal information. When you save a password or send an email, the information remains regardless of how often you delete “cookies” and free up memory.
Whenever you order something online with a credit card, the number is sent to the company and is typically stored in their memory so that the next time you visit their website, shopping and paying will be more convenient. Each year, as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen, but sadly, the majority of these victims are cautious consumers who were targeted due to a minor error. Your creepy neighbor may be waiting for you to dispose of your computer improperly so that they can gain access to a wealth of personal information.
With your personal information at their fingertips, identity thieves can easily commit fraud by opening new credit cards under your name and billing address, using your social security number to obtain illegal employment, obtaining a loan or mortgage in your name, or even just obtaining an ID card bearing your name and photograph. There are no restrictions on what an identity thief can do with your personal information, and if they have access to your e-mail accounts and internet payment systems, their reach is even greater.
Obviously, the best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to be a responsible credit card user, to monitor your credit history, and to ensure that details such as billing statements match your personal records. It is essential to monitor how and where you spend your money, and to ensure that only you are using your accounts.
It is permissible to store personal information on a computer as long as the computer remains in your possession. There is only one safe way to dispose of or recycle an old computer once you are finished with it, whether because it is obsolete, broken, or you are ready to upgrade. Your computer must be sent to a computer disposal or recycling company in order to protect your personal information and adhere to environmental standards for computer disposal. These businesses will properly disassemble a non-functional computer or remove all of your personal data so that the computer can be refurbished. In either case, the years’ worth of personal information you entered into your computer will be properly erased, and identity theft via your discarded computer will cease to be a concern.