Computers make day-to-day life much more convenient. You can manage your banking online, pay bills, obtain vital records, keep in contact with friends, research, network and so much more.

Identity theft is a major concern for online users everywhere. Everyone is concerned about how to keep their information safe while browsing the World Wide Web but many people don’t think about where their personal information can end up when a computer is discarded. A computer hard drive holds tons of personal information even after the disk has crashed or been formatted.

I have come across many discarded computers in apartment complexes and sitting near dumpsters on street corners and I am amazed that so many people will simply discard entire working computers because they are simply done with them.

The first discovery was a business computer; it belonged to a manager of the apartment complex we were living in. Now, you can imagine what personal information was kept on an apartment complex computer.. This computer was in working condition (meaning it booted up and loaded Windows ME) and I was able to access outlook express emails and documents without a password or any special computer knowledge.

Just last month I discovered another discarded computer that was also in working condition. It belonged to a university student and I was able to access the students mailing address, resume, phone number and other personal information again without a password or any special computer knowledge.

Did you know all a criminal needs is a few pieces of personal information and then they can go online to find the rest. Phone numbers can be linked to addresses and vice versa. Simply knowing the name and address of a person I can search the State of Arizona Court Records and find information on divorces, DUI’s, moving violations and much more..

In this particular college students case I was able to find her relatives information on the computer which lead me to her fathers place of work, a family members ex-wife, schools attended and mailing addresses.

The reason I am sharing this is because everyone needs to really understand the importance of properly disposing of your computer hard drives.

I did a search on “ways to destroy your hard drive and your data” and came up with many suggestions like drilling holes into the hard drive and setting the hard drive on fire. Someone told me they would throw the old hard drives in the crawl space under their home. I personally keep all my hard drives for data back up that way I know where my information is.

My point is that you need to be aware of the consequences of improper disposal of your computer hard drives. There are people out there who can obtain your life information from a computer hard drive and use it for their own benefit. Please be careful with your information and protect your identity.

Read MSNBC’s “I just bought your hard drive“.

Read 5 Ways to Destroy Your Hard Drive