It’s hard to believe that the copy machine just recently celebrated its 50th birthday. There’s no question that these popular technological devices have proven to be worth their weight in gold for countless consumers and businesses. From copying to scanning and even e-mailing documents, copy machines are a must-have for most modern day companies.
However, there’s a secret lurking inside the common copy machine that has identity thieves across the nation salivating. Nearly every copier that was built since 2002 includes a hard drive. This relatively small unit, hidden inside the copy machine, stores an image of every single document scanned or copied by the machine.
An identity thief’s dream
Most copiers store up to 20,000 document images, which might include Social Security numbers, birth certificates, bank records, income tax forms, medical records, and other valuable information. In other words, these hard drives contain the type of data that identity thieves are itching to get their hands on.
Perhaps even more frightening is this fact: Anyone can easily buy used copiers from office supply vendors. Oftentimes, a used copier that initially cost thousands of dollars is sold for just $300 or less. Quite a few vendors sell these used copiers to overseas buyers.
Most sellers do not erase the hard drive before selling a used copier. That means the buyer gains immediate access to all the invaluable information stored on the hard drive for just a few hundred bucks. With a special device, an identity thief can easily scan and download all the document images stored on this hard drive.
However, an identity thief doesn’t even have to buy the copier to gain access to the profitable data inside. He could simply hack into the office copier’s hard drive to get his hands on the wealth of information stored there.
Understanding the risks
Unfortunately, most of the general public is completely unaware of the potential risks associated with copy machines. A recent study revealed that 60% of Americans do not even realize that copiers store images on a hard drive.
Luckily, there are ways to combat the threat of identity thieves stealing data from copy machines. Some copy machine security companies have the ability to “scrub” or delete all of the info on copy machine hard drives before a business gets rid of the copier.
Additionally, some new copy machine models include a feature allowing users to erase images from the copier’s hard drive automatically. This extra feature typically costs about $500. It could be worth the added expense. After all, this feature could end up saving you thousands of dollars in identity theft damages.