Warning! Your Tax Information May be Vulnerable to Identity Theft

March 18, 2007

A recent Computerworld article, Photocopiers: The newest ID theft threat, alerts us to the potential role photo copiers can play in identity theft, especially during tax season.

Copying Your Identity
Newer photo copiers contain hard drives that store the information we make copies of. Most people, myself included, don’t think twice about copying private information on public copy machines because we don’t realize the personal data can be stored on the copier. This is even more of an issue during tax season as people copy document after document for their tax returns.

Security Holes
According to the article, the danger arises because many photocopiers are on a network and open to attack via modem when default passwords aren’t changed. We’re lucky if the copier at my office even works, let alone have been setup to use a more secure password.

Health Data at Risk
I see flexible spending account participants at risk as well as tax filers. I photocopy my receipts before mailing them in for reimbursement so I’m revealing personal health data as well as financial information.

Low Tech Identity Theft
There were several times in college where I needed to photo copy items such as credit cards, passports, or my Social Security card. There was always a line of people waiting behind me to use the copier in the student center so I was always in a rush. On more than one occasion, I accidentally left the last item in the copier once I was finished. Luckily an honest person turned it in but in the wrong hands I could have fallen victim to identity theft.

Alternatives
I think I’ll start scanning my tax forms and receipts in at home as opposed to making copies at Kinkos or at work. It will be a pain but when it comes to personal health data and financial information, it seems better safe than sorry.

Ben

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Ben

Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn’t like the other kids… His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he’s helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.


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Comments

2 Responses to Warning! Your Tax Information May be Vulnerable to Identity Theft

  • yl

    I scan in all my data. I live in a small apartment in a metropolitan area, so disk space for me is much cheaper than actual physical space. If you opt to receive electronic statements, you won’t even have to scan them in.

    I’ve checked with my accountant and they said that although paper documents were best, the IRS accepts printouts of electronic statements these days for documentation.

    Also, this way you can back up your data and store it in a second location, like a safe deposit box or storage locker. If your home is burgled or destroyed (heavens forbid) you will still have access to your important documents.

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