Identity Theft Vulnerabilities

April 26, 2023 by
Mark Nash

You wouldn't think a child's toy could lead to a breach of your personal data, but you might be surprised by how common that is. What about your trashcan sitting outside? It might be a treasure trove for an identity thief if you aren't careful about what you throw away. Many everyday objects can lead to identity theft, and they often get overlooked because people focus on their computers and cloud accounts. It's essential to have strong passwords and use antivirus on your PC, but you also need to be wary of other ways that hackers and thieves can get to your personal data. Here are six common things that criminals can use to steal your information.

Old Smart Phones

People replace their smartphones about every two and a half years. However, those old phones don't just disappear, and unless properly cleaned, they still contain all the old personal data stored on them. Our phones hold much of our data; they have synced connections with cloud services, banking apps, business apps, personal health apps, and more. And that's before we even mention any photos and videos stored on the phone. A cybercriminal could easily strike data theft gold by finding an old smartphone. Old phones often end up at charity shops or in the trash. Make sure that you properly clean any old phones by erasing all data. You should also dispose of them properly; don't just throw electronics away like regular garbage.

Wireless Printers

Most printers are wireless these days, which means they are part of your home or work network. Printing from another room is convenient, but the fact that your printer connects to the internet can leave your data at risk. Most people don't think about printers when putting data security protections in place, which leaves them vulnerable to a hack. Hackers can get more data from the printer than you might expect, such as tax paperwork, contracts, or anything else you have printed from it. They could also leverage the weak security to use it as a starting point to breach other devices on the same network. Protect printers by ensuring you keep their firmware updated. You should also turn it off when you aren't using it since a device without power is a device that can't be hacked.

USB Sticks

Have you ever run across a USB stick lying around? Regardless of whether you want to keep it for yourself or try and find its owner, you should never plug a USB device of unknown origin into your computer. This is an old trick in the hacker's book; they plant malware on these USBs and then leave them around as bait. As soon as you plug it into your device, it can infect it.

Old Hard Drives

When you are disposing of an old computer or old removable drive, make sure it's clean. Just deleting your files isn't enough; computer hard drives can have other personal data stored in the system and program files. Plus, if you're still logged into a browser or any websites, a lot of your personal data could be at risk. Browsers can store passwords, credit cards, visit history, and more. It's best to factory reset any devices before you get rid of them.


Identity theft criminals aren't only online; they can also be found scouring through neighborhoods on trash day. Be careful what you throw out in your trash because it may also enable identity theft. Your trash could hold voided checks, old bank statements, and insurance paperwork. Any of these items could have the information thieves need to commit fraud or pose as you. Even things you only think of as "junk mail" could be dangerous, such as pre-approved credit card offers. A paper shredder is the best choice in this situation. You should shred any documents that contain personal information before you throw them out. This extra step could save you from a costly incident.

Children's IoT Devices

Toys may seem totally innocent, but there has been a rise in "smart" toys, and anything connected to the internet is vulnerable to hacking. Mattel's Hello Barbie was found to have weak security, enabling the theft of personal information and spying through its microphone. These futuristic toys may seem cool but often don't take sufficient precautions regarding their data security. Cybercriminals also zero in on these IoT toys, knowing they aren't going to be as hard to breach. You should be wary of any new internet-connected devices you bring into your home, that includes toys! Install all firmware updates, and do your homework to see if a data breach has involved the toy.