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Shredding your electronics can prevent identity theft

Broken devices still have sensitive information
Posted at 11:31 AM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-19 23:22:25-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- Identity theft is a top complaint for many Hoosiers, and it’s a serious concern that could leave you with empty bank accounts.

You might be putting yourself at risk for identity theft without even realizing it.

Most consumers know it’s a good idea to shred documents with personal information on them, such as tax records and W-2s.

But many consumers may not know they can shred or destroy hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, and even cellphones.

“Shredding is important for electronics because people forget that can be at risk too,” said Cory Boggess, facilities manager at Shred-it. “Hard drives, DVDs, flash drives, those are important to destroy just like confidential documents.”

Shred-it recently added another hard drive shredding truck, which can shred 600 hard drives an hour by cutting them into tiny pieces and making the data unrecoverable.

Even if you can’t log into your computer or turn your phone on, cybercriminals can still get into the device and steal your identity.

"Regardless if you think you've erased the phone or drive, if that piece of equipment is still intact, it's still considered vulnerable," said Boggess.

In 2016, 15.4 million Americans were the victims of identity theft- that is a 16% increase from 2015, according to AARP.

Shred-it is partnering with AARP and Crime Stoppers for a community shred day on April 21, in which you can bring your electronics and paper to five locations to be shredded.  Click here for details.

The Federal Trade Commission shared the following tips about protecting your identity from thieves: 

Safely Dispose of Personal Information

Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device. Remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from a mobile device. Remove the phone book, lists of calls made and received, voicemails, messages sent and received, organizer folders, web search history, and photos.

Encrypt Your Data

Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.

Keep Passwords Private

Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.

Don’t Overshare on Social Networking Sites

If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.

Clues That Someone Has Stolen Your Information

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail
  • Merchants refuse your checks
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit
  • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account

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