Can Getting Rid of a Computer or Replacing a Hard Drive Lead to Identity Theft?

Old Computers and Hard Drives Can Increase the Threat of Identity Theft

It’s not uncommon for people to get rid of old computers or replace their hard drives when needs and technologies change. What many people don’t realize is getting rid of an old computer or hard drive can actually lead to identity theft. If you have a computer, chances are you’re going to replace at some point in the future. If you want to protect yourself from identity theft, there are a few things you should know.

Trust No One

Let’s say you take your computer to the local electronic store to have the hard drive replaced. The store says they are going to destroy your old hard drive and you take them at their word. Because of this, you don’t bother erasing any of the information on the hard drive. A few months later, you get a call from someone who bought your old hard drive at a flea market and the hard drive still has all of your information on it, including social security numbers and credit card information. If an unethical person had bought your hard drive, you could have become a victim of identity theft.

Think the above scenario couldn’t happen? Think again. It actually did happen to a couple who replaced their computer hard drive at a well-known nationwide electronics store. If you want to make sure your information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands and put you at risk of identity theft, you need to make sure it’s gone before you give your old computer or hard drive to anyone, whether it’s a person or a business.

Deleted Doesn’t Really Mean Erased

You may think it’s easy to get rid of the information on your hard drive. Just delete it all and empty your trash can and you’re home free, right? Wrong. Even when you delete information from your computer, a simple data recovery program can get back all the information you deleted. If you really want to get rid of data on your computer that could put you at risk of identity theft, you’re going to need to overwrite the information in the data and index areas.

The best way to do this is by using a program designed to scrub your hard drive of all information. There are a number of these programs available on the Web. The ones sold by reputable companies are all effective so it shouldn’t be hard to find one to use. Once you use the program and completely wipe your hard drive of all information, you won’t be at risk of identity theft when your computer leaves your hands.

Comments

waht's the name of the program that you can use to delete all your personal info from your computer or hard drive.

Marie

The very best way to destroy a hard drive is free. Just take the cover off to expose the platters, and hit the top platter rally hard with a hammer. Do this outdoors and wear eye protection. Most modern drive platters will shatter, but even if they don't, you will do enough damage that recovery won't be worth anyone's time.

If after deleting your personal files and followed it by running “defrag” from system tools would that not mess the files up so they could not be read? Seems it would move stuff to the now blank area on the hard file? Your thoughts please.

As someone who is sensitive to the prospect of identity theft, I've learned a lot about this type of scenario (erasing one's hard drive).

The folks at sysinternals.com have a free utility (with source code) called "sdelete" that really erases things on your hard drive that you have deleted. It might be a little too techie for some people to use, though.

Another alternative: If you feel comfortable opening your computer and removing your hard disk drive yourself, you can do so and then take the hard drive and mash it to pieces with a sledge hammer. I'm half-joking, but it really would substantially reduce the chances of your data becoming available to the wrong people.

Can you give specific information on where to go to find a program to scrub all information from the computer?

I know a better way! Take a hammer to the hard drive and install a new one or get a new computer !

I heard recently that the software delete programs mentioned do not always work. The speaker suggested smashing up the hard drive with a hammer or drilling holes in it with an industrial drill.
He suggested wearing protective goggles. If you want to be sure I suggest taking his advice.

Even if you do have a new computer why waste a perfectly good hard drive? Find out if it is possible to put it into your new machine as a slave. You could of course use that extra memory to give yourself a second Operating System/dual boot such as a Linux distribution -which is entirely free of charge- and possibly become hooked on it and the aethos behind the free software movement.

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