The illegal dumping of Australian e-waste on overseas shores and the potential for those discarded hard drives to still contain sensitive data which exposes the former owners to identity theft and potential misuse of their credit file, demonstrates how urgently Australia needs to change its attitude towards personal data, according to a national credit repairer.
Director of MyCRA Credit Repairs, Graham Doessel says personal information is a valuable commodity nowadays.
“Identity theft and subsequent fraud is a lucrative business for criminals, and personal details are the key to potentially racking up thousands of dollars of credit in the victim’s name.”
“To avoid identity theft, people need to develop the ethos that personal information should be destroyed when it is no longer required, whether that involves cross-shredding documents, or properly wiping hard drives of stored data before discarding,” Mr Doessel says.
These warnings come after it was revealed by SBS’s Dateline program this week that western countries across the globe, including Australia, had been illegally dumping some 500 containers worth of e-waste such as TVs, monitors and computers into Ghana every month.
While many locals scavenge the waste for copper and other valuable resources, it was revealed by a local journalist that getting private information from hard drives was also possible and demonstrated accessing personal information from one of the dumped hard drives.
“You can find personal information, company information…So people can take information and then use it to frame you up or do something against you,” journalist Enoch Messiah says as reported by ZD Net Australia.
Mr Doessel says a lot of identity fraud is committed by piecing together enough personal information from different sources in order for criminals to take out credit in the victim’s name. He says often victims don’t know about it right away – and that’s where their credit file can be compromised.
“There is no simple re-imbursement for loss on this scale. Not only can the victim’s bank accounts be drained, but they can also find themselves with several defaults on their credit file that they did not initiate, basically destroying their ability to obtain all forms of credit unless they can be removed,” he says.
He says once the victim’s credit rating is damaged due to defaults from this ‘stolen’ credit, they are facing some difficult times repairing their credit rating in order to get their life back on track.
“These victims often can’t even get a mobile phone in their name. It need not be large-scale fraud to be a massive blow to their financial future – defaults foras little as $100 will stop someone from getting a home loan,” he says.
Once an unpaid account goes to default stage, the account may be listed by the creditor as a default on a person’s credit file. Under current legislation, defaults remain on the credit file for a 5 year period.
“What is not widely known is how difficult credit repair can be – even if the individual has been the victim of identity theft, there is no guarantee the defaults can be removed from their credit file. The onus is on them to prove their case and provide copious amounts of documentary evidence” he says.
According to ZD Net, the government recently passed legislation mandating a co-regulatory scheme for computer and TV recycling in Australia, set to be phased in at the end of this year.
“But people should still be aware that whenever they want to discard a hard drive, they should take adequate measures to ensure all sensitive data is adequately removed before it leaves their hands,” Mr Doessel says.
Adrian Briscoe, general manager of Asia Pacific for data recovery company Kroll Ontrack, told ZDNet Australia that the best methods to ensure data is completely removed was to use software that overrides the hard-drive sectors seven times, or to physically wipe the hard drive using a degausser that pulses the drive with electromagnetic radiation. Briscoe said it was vital to personally ensure the data is erased before getting rid of old hard drives.
“I don’t think people necessarily understand the dangers of just releasing a computer back … they have no guarantee that once they release a computer physically, that the data won’t turn up again because they have not actually witness the data being erased,” Briscoe says.
For more information on credit repair following identity theft, people can contact MyCRA Credit Repairs tollfree on 1300 667 218 or visit their website www.mycra.com.au.
MyCRA Credit Repairs is Australia’s leader in credit rating repairs. We permanently remove defaults from credit files.