We wanted to check out the type of information that can be found on an old computer. So we went to a Reno thrift store and bought a used computer for around $100. Then we yanked the hard drive and handed it over to experts at The Computer Guy, a shop that specializes in repairs, computer sales and data removal.
Owner Tony Wildey says the person who gave this computer away thought he deleted everything. But in a matter of minutes…documents began popping up before our eyes. Soon we knew his name, and the names of his wife and son. We know where they live, and where they go to church. They have accounts with Bank of America and American Express. We learned that they shop on Ebay, and we found an email address, user name and password. We also have access to thousands of family photographs, and images downloaded from the internet. Its information that could be devastating if it ends up in the wrong hands.
"They could get their social security number, checking account numbers, credit card numbers," says Wildey.
"That's a very real possiblity," says Sgt. Chuck Lovitt with the RPD finanical crimes division. "I'm convinced that it occurs on a daily basis."
After discovering far more information than we anticipated, we called the previous owner to let him know. Since he donated the computer over a year ago, it took a while for him to remember.
"I'm shocked really. I didn't expect anything like this out of the blue." In our case, we should've been more careful. I'm glad it fell into hands that wont be destructive to us."
In part two of "memory bandits," we'll tell you how to donate or give away your old computer without risking your identity.