identity theft

Everyday Items That Can Lead to Identity Theft

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information, often leading to identity fraud, whereby your information is used for illicit economic gain. It can be a brutal, disempowering, legally complex and very upsetting situation to find yourself in, so naturally avoiding identity theft at all costs should be a priority.  

Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to gain control of your identity information than you’d imagine. Everyday items like a kid’s toy and the rubbish bin sitting outside your house are like treasure chests for identity thieves. They easily get overlooked as we focus on having strong passwords and making sure our computer antiviruses are up to date (which is obviously important too!)  

Today we’re going to look at a few everyday items that can lead to identity theft, and hopefully it’ll make you a bit more alert in your day-to-day lives!  

Old Smartphones 

Every couple of years your phone contract expires and you’re due an upgrade to the latest and shiniest model. It’s always a bit of an exciting time but think about how many old smartphones this leaves around the world, all chock full of personal information. From banking to business apps and even personal health, it’s all there on one device. Never mind the documents and spreadsheets, photos and videos.  

This makes an old smartphone a data theft gold mine for a cyber-criminal. Make sure that once you’ve transferred all your info to your new phone, you completely wipe the old one. Erase everything, and dispose of it through the correct e-waste channels, not by tossing it into the garbage bin.  

Wireless Printers 

That two-metre printer cord was always so restrictive, right? The wireless printer has given us the freedom to have the printer wherever we want in the office! You can even print from another room. This does mean that the printer is connected to your office network, which puts your data at risk.  

Sensitive documents you print can be stored on the printer, such as business contracts or accounting papers. If a hacker gets into your network, these become sitting ducks for them. Suddenly your private data isn’t so private anymore! 

Best practice is to always keep your printer firmware updated, as this protects it from the latest threats and vulnerabilities. Also, when you’re not using it, turn it off. A hacker can’t get into a printer that isn’t on!  

USB Sticks 

USB sticks are a favourite means for hackers to get access to your computer and data. Maybe you picked one up off the street and thought you’d get it back to its rightful owner. Or someone was handing out ‘freebie’ USB’s and you thought that was very nice of them!  

Take this advice – never, ever stick a USB into your computer if you aren’t 100% sure of its origin. Hackers love this trick – they fill it with malware that launches onto your computer and hacks your data once you plug it in.  

Stay away from unverified USB sticks!  

Old Hard Drives 

Upgraded your computer? Or maybe you’re getting rid of an external or removable drive. There’s a lot of data stored in the system and program files, so make sure you completely wipe the drive. Deleting the data isn’t good enough, you need to reformat it completely.  

You’d be amazed at how many people dispose of their old computer and don’t even bother to log out of web browser, online accounts or apps. You’re basically gifting your information to anyone who turns on the machine. They’ll have access to your browser history, password information and so much more.  

You’d do well to get an IT professional to completely erase your hard drives when you upgrade them or your computer. This makes it safe for donation, reuse or disposal.  

The Rubbish Bin 

Hackers are opportunistic, and they don’t limit themselves to online opportunities. This means you have to be very careful what you toss into your rubbish bin because they’ve been known to trawl through junk to access information they can leverage for identity fraud.  

Many things you consider junk mail actually have your personal information on them, whether they’re credit card offers or insurance paperwork. Often we don’t think twice when throwing away old bank statements or even superannuation documentation. Any of these could have the information thieves need to commit fraud or pose as you. 

The solution? Meet Mr Shredder! Get into the habit of shredding all documents before they go into the bin. No hacker will sit there trying to piece together the tiny pieces of shredded paper!  

Children’s Toys 

This is one you’d probably never expect, but many modern children’s toys are actually IoT devices that hackers love to break into. Electronic teddies, smartwatches for kids, Wi-Fi-connected dolls and so on are all fertile reaping grounds for hackers. They can even use microphones on toys to listen in to conversations!  

We know how cool these toys are and how happy they make kids, so it’s hard not to have them around the house. You need to be wary of any internet-connected devices coming into your household though. Make sure they’ve got the latest firmware installed and do a bit of research to check they haven’t been involved in any data breaches.  

Get the Advice of IT Professionals 

As the Brisbane Cybersecurity Experts, Smile IT are here to keep your business networks safe and to help prevent situations like identity fraud from happening! If you need advice or want to start implementing strategies to strengthen your networks and enhance your hacker-resisting abilities, get in touch with us today. One of our friendly ‘Smiles’ will love to help! 

peter drummond

When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!