Copy machines could put sensitive data at risk

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. --

Every time you hand over your ID for someone to make a quick copy, you could be handing over a license for someone to steal your identity -- and it has nothing to do with the paper your information is printed on.

It all comes down to the internal memory of a copy machine and how it’s all stored.

Dave Kleiman is a computer forensic expert specializing in data recovery. He said the risk for identity theft is high.

"It can be dangerous. I mean, if someone gets a hold of that hard drive and wanted to use that information in an illicit way, they could definitely do that," said Kleiman.

Nearly every copier built in the past six or seven years contains a hard drive, just like a computer. It stores a picture of every single document that's copied on the machine -- that could be your tax returns, bank statements or medical records.

At Dr. Maureen Whelihan's gynecology office, her employees used to do it the old-fashioned way. They’d make copies of IDs and insurance cards for patient files, and eventually they’d shred copies, leaving the potential for records to be stored on a hard drive. But now they've revamped their computer systems.

“We're scanning right into your report to protect your privacy,” explained Whelihan.

Jim Henderson’s wife is a patient of Whelihan.

"That’s always a concern these days," Henderson said. "Identity theft is a big problem. But I had no idea that the copy machine was a resource for identity theft."

In fact, most people have no idea the copier is a moving target for identity thieves.

“Many of these copy machines are leased. So a lot of companies turn these machines back in with those hard drives intact and all of the information on there, unbeknownst probably to them," said Kleiman.

Hundreds of used machines sit in warehouses and local office supply stores. It's a ticking tech time bomb full of personal info.

At Alan's Business Machines, WPBF 25 News found dozens of copiers waiting to be sold.

"I don’t know of any laws or any guidelines that would prevent from just taking a machine in and selling it immediately without really doing anything to it,” said store owner Robert Hinson.

There are no laws mandating hard drives be replaced or even wiped out. However, Hinson said he clears out everything.

“It would be much like a computer. We would take the hard drive out and reformat it,” added Hinson.

But according to Kleiman, that’s not enough. He says information can still be retrieved from a hard drive after it's formatted. It can be easily recovered using a forensic software program you can get free online.

As Kleiman explains, there is an option to add extra security to new copiers, but that costs extra and isn’t always considered a necessity.

"Sometimes it complicates things, makes it take longer to do things and everyone wants efficiency over security," said Kleiman.

Instead of trying to clear the hard drive, you can keep it before selling or returning the machine if it's leased. It can often cost a couple hundred dollars but will help prevent the information from getting into the wrong hands.

Copier Machines Could Be Cause Of Identity Theft

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