On Your Side: Facts about Faxing

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A common machine used to send information may be putting you at risk for identity theft.

Fax machines are often used to send sensitive information about people that can include social numbers, birth dates, and credit history.

You may assume that information is erased from the machine once the fax is sent. However, that's not always true.

The fax machine is a great tool that many of you use to send and receive information quickly.

It's so convenient and easy. You just dial a number, put the paper in and off the information goes.

However, there can be some serious drawbacks.

Ben Jordan, owner of Inkboy Ink & Toner Outlet, has been repairing fax machines for years and he says they can put you at risk for identity theft. "Many fax machines store at least the last 10 faxes they've received in memory," he said.

And, those faxes can be printed out by just punching in a few numbers.

If there's any sensitive information on it, it could end up in the hands of the wrong person.

"If you roll this backwards, you can see the information that was printed out," Jordan said.

Then, there are the copiers that use film to store information. "Anything that was printed on this machine is stored on this roll." Jordan explained.

Imagine if this roll was used at a car dealership or a bank. The information on it could make you an easy target for identity theft, which is something Jordan has seen before. “I've seen everything from credit card applications with social security numbers and all sorts of personal information," he said.

So what can you do? First and foremost ask if your fax information will be stored on a hard drive or on film.

If you can't find out, you may want to make your fax elsewhere.

If you're a business, clean out your fax hard-drive. If you use film, you should destroy it once it's full.

"Shred it, burn it and just get rid of it," Jordan says.

We did contact U.P.S. and Kinkos to check their policy on fax memory.

Both companies say they have no direct policies in place. Instead, they rely on the manufacturers to put security in place on the fax machines.

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