Use a camera and printer to "copy" safely

Consumer Reports News: June 03, 2010 10:34 AM

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As we told you last week, photocopying sensitive information at your local copy shop (or after hours in the office) could compromise your privacy, since the scanned documents are stored electronically on the hard drive, which can be hacked by identity thieves. That's pretty scary--I photocopied my tax return at the local drugstore just a few months ago. Let's hope that hard drive doesn't fall into the wrong hands!

In that earlier blog, Electronics Editor Paul Reynolds pointed out that an all-in-one printer with a copying function is a better alternative (Ratings available to subscribers). Tip: All-in-ones with a flatbed design will let you copy books, photos, and other items you can't, or don't want to, put through the slot on a sheet-fed model.

There's another way to make a quick copy of your passport, a bank statement, or driver’s license at home. Simply get out your camera and shoot a photo, then print it on your inkjet or laser printer.

For the best results with a point-and-shoot camera, choose the highest resolution setting on your camera and a preset closeup mode—macro, copy, or text mode would be a good choice. Make sure there’s enough ambient light so you can avoid using a flash, which might create hot spots that render sections of the text unreadable.

Get relatively close to the document and fire away. Use a tripod if you have one or otherwise steady the camera to minimize handshake. Transfer the image to your computer, then crop, enlarge, or edit as needed. Finally, print it. It won’t be perfect, but it should be serviceable, and the image won't wind up out in the world for all to see.

You can also use this trick to digitize old snapshots, pages from books or magazines, even record album covers, all without using a scanner. You can then edit, archive, e-mail or print the images.

Have you ever tried this, and if so, do you have any tips for other folks? Let us know.

Eileen McCooey

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