Hacker downloading information off a computer

Identity thieves use many different methods to carry out their crimes.  One of their most effective tools just happens to be a computer.  The introduction and evolution of the internet has made it that much easier for identity theft to be committed by way of computer.  Several online predators seek out the innocent on fraudulent web sites or via email.  They often claim to be IRS agents or members of a banking institution, trying to persuade recipients out of residential addresses, Social Security numbers and bank account information.  Those individuals who choose to meet these requests are swindled instantly as the scammer immediately assumes their identity by charging up credit cards and possibly cleaning out their bank accounts.

These facts are very unsettling when thinking how computers have become a way of life for many of us.  What is even more alarming is the fact that so many people unknowingly put themselves at the risk of identity theft with no involvement from the internet.  This occurs when someone gives away their computer or sells it at a trade show.  Several of these discarded computers have a hard drive full of personal information.  This makes it very easy for a criminal minded individual to thieve your hard earned money and possibly assume your identity.

You would be surprised to learn what may still be on your computer even after you think it has been removed.  A computer-savvy thief may easily be able to retrieve email messages, your name, age, birth date and other sensitive information.

Eluding Computer Identity Theft

It is very unfortunate that several identity thieves know how to operate your computer better than you.  While they are skilled in their methods of deception, there are few things that can be done to protect your personal information:

•          Always remove the hard drive on a computer you are selling or giving away.

•          Keep it in safe place or destroy it

•           Inquire within a reliable computer supplier about how to safely overwrite the files

•           Use a quality hard disk cleaning program.

There are also a few items you should delete individually.  Though it may be some what of a task, recovering from identity theft is even more of a challenge.  Here are the files that must be deleted before selling or giving your computer away:

•           all email contacts

•           all email messages

•           all important word documents

•           all files in the recycle bin or trash folder of the operating system

•           all temporary internet files

•           your internet search history

•           the cache of your web browser

•           any non-transferable software that may be installed on the hard drive

You should also make sure that trusted users of your computer are practicing identity theft prevention as well.  Children should protect themselves from identity theft by never using their real name in an email account and limiting personal details on social networking sites.  Being that children are often prime targets of internet predators, it is very important to protect the contents of your computer to prevent identity theft and ensure their safety.