Identity Theft Articles

Copy machines could be used to steal identities

Common threat for identity theft.

There are times that all consumers have to provide a copy of some important personal documents. Employers could need a copy of their social security card, or a new doctor might need copies of medical records.

But some New Jersey lawmakers warn that there can be dangers with simply running off a copy of any document that contains vital personal information, according to New Jersey Newsroom. State Senator Bob Smith and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein recently presented legislation that could stop thieves from stealing the identities of hundreds or even thousands in one fell swoop.

New Jersey Newsroom said the lawmakers were prompted to write the bill thanks to a CBS report that found most digital copiers use internal hard drives to store every document the machine has ever printed, scanned, copied, faxed or emailed. Often, these machines are returned to leasing companies or resold, with tens of thousands of documents on them. The report said every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive.

The Smith-Greenstein bill would require all records on a digital copier to be destroyed when the machine is no longer used by its most recent owners, New Jersey Newsroom said. There would be hefty fines for those that violate the bill, with a penalty of up to $10,000 for first-time offenders and $20,000 for each subsequent offense. They would also be responsible for any damages that result from an identity theft.

The report said that this resolution would only take effect in New Jersey, so Smith and Greenstein are urging Congress to enact similar legislation at the federal level.

A recent report in the New York Times said that hard drives are typically found in copiers that can perform multiple functions, like print, scan, copy and fax. Because this type of machine is most often found in offices and copy centers, the hard drives exist so that the machine can multitask, for example storing information on a print job while completing a batch of copies. The hard drive also allows the machine to work faster, or at all. One expert told the paper that machines wouldn't be able to complete these complicated tasks without a hard drive.

The Times said that many copiers that have been manufactured in the last few years are being produced with standard security features, and that more manufacturers are publishing security information on their websites.