Discarding a computer? Then 'shred' online credit card data
Got an old computer? Simply throwing it away can endanger the environment -- and your finances. It may still contain sensitive personal data, including your credit card information left from online purchases.
Your computer, like most electronic devices, contains mercury, cadmium, and other hazardous materials. These substances can be hazardous if dumped in a landfill. As a result, it is worthwhile to investigate ways to safely recycle or dispose of your PC.
We all share the Earth, but your financial information should be yours alone. If you have made Internet purchases on your computer or saved budgeting information to your hard drive, that sensitive online credit card information could linger on your hard drive, even if you erased files.
Miners of old hard drives
Banking information and credit card details taken from the hard drives of computers that were recycled or put on the used market have been sold in places as far away as Nigeria. Buyers of discarded computers can recover data from unerased hard drives and pass your credit card information to identity thieves.
Computer users should take precautions when they discard their computers, just as they would with credit card statements or any sensitive paperwork. One way to erase credit card and other information from a hard drive is to use commercial software that acts as a digital file shredder, overwriting files and making them unrecoverable.
Or you can literally smash your hard drive. First, you can remove panels from your computer to get at the hard drive. Then, take off the top and use a hammer to destroy the hard drive.
Still, an old computer does need not be thrown away. An older computer can function as a dedicated file server in a small office or home network, or can be a reliable backup should anything happen to your new computer. If you have wiped your computer clean with the type of software described above, you may want to sell the computer, or donate it to a charitable organization (earning yourself a tax deduction in the process). You can look at the website ElectronicsRecycling.org for more information.
Remember that while an old computer may be trash to you, it could be a potential gold mine for those looking to commit identity theft.
Updated: May 9, 2008
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