Fax security: Are you at risk?

BOISE, Idaho - We have all become pretty good at guarding against identity theft.

We shred our documents and protect our pin numbers and Social Security numbers. However, there's a threat many people don't think about, and it comes from a common machine you might have at home.

KBOI 2News paid $15 for an old fax machine. We found it at a local thrift store, and if we were crooks on the prowl we would now have a wealth of private information.

Every document ever received by older model thermal fax machines is perfectly preserved on a carbon ribbon, or roll, inside. That includes birth certificates, credit card receipts, medical records, and banking information.

"This day in age whether it's old school or something new it's important to remember that your device has a memory on it," said Dale Dixon, BBB President.

Most people don't know that carbon rolls are not recyclable, but they end up in recycle bins anyway.

Fax machines are abandoned at second-hand stores with all the previous owner's info inside or they're recycled at print shops.

"It's a huge scare people aren't aware of," said Rob Berger, a shop owner. "Schools, pharmacies, rental places... the sky is the limit."

The older model thermal fax machines are used in thousands of homes and businesses, and they're still found on store shelves.

Jerry and Mary Lane had no clue a perfect copy of one of their checks was still on a carbon role their dentist had tossed in a recycle bin.

"I don't like my information being out there," said Mary Lane.

We showed the Better Business Bureau what we found.

"If it's in the wrong hands it can be used to perpetrate a crime," Dixon said.

It's even better if an identity thief can get his hands on a birth certificate.

Bruce Becker was shocked when we showed him a pristine copy of his young son's birth certificate.

"With technology today they could do lots of stuff with that it's kinda disturbing," Becker said.

A copy of the birth certificate and a registration form with all the family's personal information was left inside a fax machine that a little league coach recycled.

"We just don't think a piece of equipment is going to harbor potentially damaging information in the hands of the wrong person," Dixon said.

Dixon adds that thieves will sit on the boy's birth certificate until he's 18 years old and then apply for credit.

"Basically you'd have to shred it or incinerate it just like a piece of paper," said Tom Neill, United Metals Manager.

United Metals destroys around 10,000 pounds of electronics every week in the Treasure Valley. They will take fax machines for free.
United Metals is located at 3809 South Eagleson Road Boise, ID 83705.

The phone number is (208) 562-5571.