Fraud risk from second-hand devices

Memory stick

Thousands of second-hand computer disk drives still contain personal information, a study by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has found.

After purchasing more than 200 drives from websites such as eBay it said 11% still contained sensitive details.

It also searched 20 memory sticks and 10 mobile phones and recovered 34,000 files, including scanned bank statements, passports, information on previous driving offences and medical details.

Online fraudsters

Within the machines collected, 48% had some information left on them and at least two had enough data left on them to enable the previous owners' identities to be stolen.

A separate study by the ICO also discovered that 65% of people now pass on their old electronic equipment such as mobile phones, computers and laptops to other people, and one in 10 have never wiped a machine before getting rid of it.

"Today's findings show that people are in danger of becoming a soft touch for online fraudsters simply because organisations and individuals are failing to ensure the secure deletion of the data held on their old storage devices," says the information commissioner Christopher Graham.

If you think you've been scammed get in touch by leaving a comment below or emailing us on and let us know exactly what has happened.

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Your Comments

I'm sure many of us are aware of this problem already but can anyone recommend a foolproof (and preferrably cheap) way of 'wiping' devices prior to passing them on or selling them please? Merely deleting information from a PC, for instance, does not mean it is irretrievable if someone really wants to get at it!