Most people wouldn't throw out their Social Security card or toss a credit card in the trash. Yet careful souls worldwide have been dumping old computers by the millions, filling landfills with exactly that kind of sensitive information, where aggressive high-tech criminals can readily scoop it up.
According to the latest statistics from the EPA, 205 million computer products were disposed of in 2007, with a paltry 48 million of those recycled. That leaves plenty of identities in the garbage stream just waiting to be poached.
Indeed, many computers are being mined for Social Security numbers, credit card information, bank statements, investment records and various other tidbits that open the door for everything from credit card fraud to full-on identity theft. While exact numbers are difficult to come by, there's no doubt it's happening with ever more frequency.
"I've personally met hundreds of people who have had their identity stolen this way," says John Sileo, identity protection expert and author of "Privacy Means Profit," available at thinklikeaspy.com. "The thing is, if thieves are smart -- which they are -- it should be a massive problem, because it's such an easy way to get data."
You don't have to be a victim. Taking these three simple steps when discarding a desktop or laptop computer virtually guarantees your private information can't be stolen.
Read the 3 steps: