Objects that can Lead to Identity Theft

A child’s toy seems innocuous enough, and you probably don’t even think about it leading to identity theft. This actually happens all the time! But what about your trash can sitting outside? Could it be a treasure trove for an identity thief trolling the neighborhood at night?

Many everyday objects can and often do lead to identity theft. They often get overlooked because people tend to focus on their traditional digital security – computers and cloud accounts. It’s important to have strong passwords and use antivirus on your PC of course, but you also need to be wary of other attack vectors that hackers and thieves can utilize to get to your personal data.

Here are six common things that criminals can use to steal your information.

Old Smart Phones

Data shows that people replace their smartphones about every two and a half years. That amounts to quite a lot of old phones laying around containing personal data.

Think of all the information our mobile phones hold and transmit. We have synced connections with cloud services, banking apps, business apps, and personal health apps. These are all nicely stored on one small device, conveniently accessible on the go.

As chip technology has advanced, smartphones have been able to hold more “stuff.” This comes with the ability for documents and spreadsheets to be easily stored on mobile phones, along with tons of photos and videos.

A cybercriminal could easily strike data theft gold by finding an old smartphone. They often end up at charity shops or in the trash. Make sure that you properly clean any old phones by erasing all data. You should also dispose of them properly. You shouldn’t just throw electronics away like normal garbage.

Wireless Printers and Identity Theft?

Most printers are wireless these days. This means they are part of your home or work network ecosystem. Printing from another room is convenient, but your printer connecting to the internet can leave your data at risk.

Printers often store sensitive documents, such as tax paperwork or contracts. Most people don’t think about printers when putting data security protections in place. This leaves them open to a hack and vulnerable to breaches. When a breach happens, a hacker can lift data from the printer. They can also leverage it to breach other devices on the same network.

Protect printers by ensuring you keep their firmware updated. Always install updates as soon as they are available. You should also turn it off when not in use. When it’s off, it’s not accessible by a hacker.

USB Sticks

Did you ever run across a USB stick laying around? Perhaps you thought you scored a free removable storage device. Maybe you want to try to return it to the rightful owner. First, you think you’ll need to see what’s on it.

The thing is, you should never plug a USB device of unknown origin into your computer. This is an old trick in the hacker’s book. Hackers plant malware on these sticks and then leave them around as bait, and as soon as you plug it into your device, it can infect it.

Old Hard Drives and Identity Theft

When you are disposing of an old computer or old removable drive, make sure it’s clean. Just deleting your files isn’t enough – hard drives can have other personal data stored in system and program files.

If you happen to still be logged into a browser, a lot of your personal data could be at risk. Browsers store passwords, credit cards, visit history, and more.

It’s best to get help from an IT professional (like us, here at Travel Tech) to properly erase your computer drive. This will make it safe for disposal, donation, or reuse.

Trash Can

Identity theft criminals aren’t only online. They can also be prowling the neighborhood on trash day. Be careful what you throw out in your trash.

It’s not unusual for garbage to be utilized as a tool for identity theft. It can include pre-approved credit card offers that you considered “junk mail.” Your trash can also hold voided checks, old bank statements, and insurance paperwork. Any of these items could have the information thieves need to commit fraud or pose as you.

A shredder can be your best friend in this case. You should shred any documents that contain personal information. Always do this before you throw them out. This extra step could save you from a costly incident.

Children’s IoT Devices

Electronic bears, smart kid watches, and Wi-Fi-connected Barbies… all toys that, while cool, hackers love. Mattel’s Hello Barbie was found to enable the theft of personal information. A hacker could also use its microphone to spy on families.

These futuristic toys are often what kids want. Parents might think they’re cool, but don’t consider data security. After all, these are children’s toys. That often also means they can be easier to hack. Cybercriminals also zero in on these IoT toys, knowing they aren’t going to be as hard to breach.

You should be wary of any new internet-connected devices you bring into your home. That includes toys! Install all firmware updates and do your homework to see if a data breach has involved the toy.

Consider Security, Always

Don’t let the thought of identity theft keep you up at night. Give us a call today and schedule an IT security audit. You’ll be glad you did.


(256) 970-4558

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

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