If you’re disposing of old documents such as bank statements and tax forms, security experts recommend shredding the paperwork so it can’t be used by identity thieves. Simply deleting the data by emptying the “trash” folder won’t totally wipe all that information away.
Before you dispose of an old personal computer, the experts recommend that the very least you do is reformat your hard drive and reinstall the operating system. A better bet is to wipe your hard drive clean. It’s a practice everyone should be familiar with, since it may be the top recommendation for preventing identity theft.
However, many consumers and organizations are turning to a paperless world, and records once held in filing cabinets are now stored on computer hard drives. But computers eventually get replaced, and old computers are donated, recycled, handed down or refurbished — often with personally identifiable information (PII) still on the machine.
An even easier way to do this, provided the user has Windows Vista or better, is to create a system repair disk and then format the hard drive using the standard format command.
Make sure that the computer technician is one who understands that deleting a file, formatting a hard drive or reinstalling an operating system doesn’t render the data unrecoverable. Those technicians will know enough to identify the proper tools to wipe your drive.
Eliminating personal data from personal computers kept at home is relatively easy. The real problems lie with mobile devices and work computers. Smartphone and tablet owners now store a great deal of personally identifiable information on these devices.
Apps are available to “wipe” the devices if they are lost or stolen, but the technology is still relatively new and these apps leave some data behind. Ideally leave your banking, personal emailing and social networking to your home computer. That way, you can control what happens to your personally identifiable information when the time comes to get rid of your old equipment.
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Source: Associated Press