LETTING & ESTATE AGENT

Your Data - Is It Really Protected?

Your Data - Is It Really Protected?

Is your Agent’s Photocopier Plotting Against You?

By: Mike White : Martin & Co

Did you know that the innocent Photocopying Machine sitting in the corner of your Agent’s Office could very easily be used to steal your identity?

Mike White from letting agent Martin & Co reports, “Most agents ourselves included, use very efficient machines that copy, print, scan and fax information and some (I’m not joking) will make the tea. However, just like computers these sophisticated machines have a hard drive which will store all information put through them. So for both tenants and landlords, you’ll probably have allowed your agent to photocopy items like passports, drivers licences, utility bills, council tax bills; the list goes on. And, undoubtedly the agent will have printed the tenancy agreement. What’s wrong with that you may ask?

Well, unlike computers when they’ve reached the end of their useful life, photocopiers don’t generally have their memories cleared! The vast majority of agents take data protection very seriously and will have a process in place to ensure the memories of end of life computers are wiped but do they get the copiers done?  It makes commercial sense for businesses generally, not just agents, to lease office equipment and at the end of the lease just simply return the machine to the supplier.

There is a big responsibility on the suppliers to ensure these old machines are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner, which can cost quite a bit of money given the environmentally unfriendly components inside. On the other hand, most of these machines are still perfectly serviceable and offer a purchaser a reliable piece of kit and, potentially, a lot more as well! Apparently, a large number of these machines end up being sold to developing countries for as little as £20 per machine and such onward sale means the supplier is able to forgo the environmental costs they would otherwise incur by junking the machine in this country.

So after a hop, skip and a jump, a machine containing thousands of very sensitive bits of personal information goes from the corner of a reputable Norwich agent’s office to a developing country into the grateful hands of someone somewhat less reputable. Imagine what an identity thief could do with all of that lovely information and all for £20!

At Martin & Co we own all of our equipment outright and we control what happens to it at the end of its economic life. In any event, we’ll be making absolutely sure that all of our computers or copiers have their memories professionally cleaned before they leave our offices.

I’ve written this article as part of an ongoing, if infrequent, campaign to draw attention to the need for anyone using a letting agent to check and double check their bona fides.

Landlords and tenants, for more information, call Mike White on 01603 766860.  For fellow agents, here are two reputable local suppliers in Norwich who can clean your machines for you; Photostatic Anglia Ltd on 01603 613 969 and Mayday Office Supplies on 01603 481995