HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It may seem like thieves are always one step ahead, coming up with new ways to steal your identity.
Copy machines may be the new source for identity theft. They have evolved over the years becoming more advanced and appearing in just about every doctor's office and workplace.
There are new concerns over copies getting into the wrong hands. Crooks have found a way to hack into copy machines.
The key is hidden deep inside the machine's hard drive which can store information and every image you copy.
"Anytime you have a digitized image, it can be stored on a hard drive. It's just like any other computer image," said Charles Kimery, Economy Business Systems Owner.
He says hackers are swiping hard drives with anything from social security numbers, medical records and financial documents.
Kimery says older machines built back in the early 1990's likely don't have hard drives in them. But the ones that do can store information if it isn't programmed to delete previous copies every time a new one is scanned.
It is a process the Allied Copy says they make it their business to do.
Customers make roughly 1.2 million copies in a month, too high of a volume for every machine to store according to Allied Copy's Wayne Dillard.
They've called the professionals to protect their business and their customers by formatting machines to discard old copies.
"It's a built in safeguard and the information that we send to our printers is encrypted,with an encryption that's very sophisticated and it's approved by the U.S. Department of Defense," said Dillard.
The danger of hard drives getting into the wrong hands is when machines are discarded or sold because companies upgrade to newer models without knowing they're tossing out private information.
Kimery says it's easy for an owner of a machine to protect themselves by formatting the machine, buying the software to scramble images on the hard drive or just calling a professional to do it.
The only way you can safeguard yourself is to make sure anyone who handles your personal information is aware of the problem.
"You're the one that is going to be fined if someone's information gets out so whoever owns that business also owns that data and they are responsible for it," said Kimery.
There are privacy laws to protect someone's identity, especially when it comes to medical records. But experts believe it's difficult to enforce, so it's up to you to protect your privacy.