Latest ID theft goldmine: fax machines

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First we heard about ID theft risks from smart phones, then stolen laptops and copy machines. Now we find out that fax machines can be gold mines of personal data.

Thermal fax machines use a ribbon to print images onto fax paper. If you take the ribbon out of an old fax machine and hold it up to the light, it's a carbon copy of every fax received since the ribbon was changed. Identity thieves know this and are "data mining" these old machines, finding them in landfills and for sale on eBay.
On a recent CBS' "Early Show," reporter Susan Koeppen revealed how easy it is to steal data from thermal fax machines. Show producers bought seven used machines on eBay and Craigslist. Every one revealed personal documents and Social Security numbers, but one machine, sold for $10 on Craigslist by a Massachusetts mortgage broker, had a "mother lode" of documents - bank statements, retirement accounts and W-2 forms from 16 different customers. (A mortgage broker-- mortgage servicer! No comment.)

What can you do?
If you own one of these thermal faxes, take the ribbon out and shred it before selling or simply throwing it away.  Certified electronics recyclers will destroy old ribbons, but since a lot of old electronic equipment is shipped to China and India to be taken apart, your info might be anywhere in the world.

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