Navigant Consulting, Inc. has revealed that many second-hand computers available from on-line auction sites and second-hand computer shops may still contain enough information to enable fraudsters to steal identities along with bank account and signatory details, despite people going to considerable lengths to delete such confidential data prior to the sale.
To demonstrate the potential magnitude of the risk Navigant Consulting purchased three second-hand computers last week, and was able to determine that one of the computers still contained sensitive personal information on the hard drive.
Andrew Durant, head of Navigant Consultings fraud investigation team, said: The seller would have believed all personal information been deleted when the hard-drive was reformatted and a new operating system was installed, but that is simply not good enough. Many individuals, companies and other organisations still do not understand the precautions they need to take when selling their used PCs in order to protect personal information.
Given all the recent publicity about ID fraud I was shocked to find this level of personal and corporate information on a second-hand computer. If it got into the hands of a fraudster it would be Christmas, Easter and his birthday all at once.
Based on an analysis of the computers, Navigant fraud investigators discovered information from a community college on the second-hand computer, including:
Student names, addresses and photos;
Staff budgets and payroll schedules including names and salary details;
Bank account standing data payments and receipts;
A letter to the bank including full bank account details and signed by the authorized account signatory;
Students lone parent and benefit applications.
This level of information potentially put students, staff, suppliers and the college as a whole at risk from fraud, explains Durant.
The message is simple: if you cant securely delete your data, dont sell your computer. It is possible to download software from the internet to securely wipe data from your PC, or better still, take it to a reputable reseller and ask them to do it for you.
Andrew Durant added: If selling a computer, it is far better to destroy the hard-drive and replace it with a new one, which can be bought for as little as 20. If the cost of a new hard-drive is more than the price you hope to get from selling your computer, then dont sell it because of the risks.
Even disposing of used hard-drives at the approved local council site isnt completely safe as hard-drives have resurfaced in such places as Lagos, Nigeria, with the data recovered from them used in frauds.
Navigant Consulting securely and completely deleted all the information recovered from the laptop computer and informed the community college of the security breach.