How To Protect Your Data Before You Get Rid of Your Phone or Computer

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Why It’s Important to Protect Your Privacy on Your Unwanted Devices Before Selling or Recycling Them 

So you have a phone or laptop you don’t want anymore. Will you sell it, or give it away? After reading this blog, you may want to think twice before getting rid of your device, as you may be selling all of your private and financial information with it. 

Nowadays, we trust our lives with our electronic devices. Phones, laptops, and digital watches – they carry all of our private information in them. From banking details to scans and copies of our social security number, birth certificate and passport. 

With technology constantly evolving, we can’t seem to help ourselves and buy the latest iPhone, Apple Watch or laptop. And it’s become so easy and convenient to sell our old devices online and use the money to purchase a newer device. With online platforms like eBay and Facebook Market Place, we can buy and sell electronics at a reasonable price. Sounds innovative, right? Here’s the catch – most of us don’t know how important it is to protect our private information and data before parting with our unwanted devices, and it’s a problem I have faced more than once. 

We’re all somewhat familiar with the “erase all content and settings” option, but what if I told you that it doesn’t always work? And while you think you’ve wiped your device, you’re really just handing over all of your personal information with it. 

It Really Can Happen, To Anybody

A couple months ago, I purchased an Apple Watch on Facebook Marketplace. I met with the owner at a gas station and sent her the agreed amount of money through Venmo once I had the watch in my hands. When I got home to connect the watch to my phone, I came across all of her personal information. I couldn’t believe it, but I was still logged into her emails, and I even had access to her digital wallet. Luckily for the woman, I am not a thief. But what if her watch had fallen into the wrong hands? 

Without wasting any time, I messaged the owner informing her that the watch was not wiped. So in order to erase the content from the watch I needed her Apple ID and password. The owner was shocked! She told me that she had reset the device several times before selling it to me and was very grateful that I was the one she had sold it to. 

Had I been a thief, I could’ve changed the passwords to all of her emails and bank accounts. I could’ve used her credit cards and even stolen her identity. With that said, it’s crucial to take all the necessary steps before selling or recycling your devices, because remember, we literally trust these devices with our lives. 

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Protect Your Data: Here’s How To Do It

If you want to wipe your device, all you have to do is remove the SIM card, right? It seems logical, but unfortunately, it’s harder than you may think to securely delete all of the data on your device. Removing the SIM card simply disrupts communication with the network, it doesn’t remove any of your personal information. In fact, all of your information, photos, and logged-into applications are still on there, visible to anybody who has your device. 

Many of us may resort to erasing all the content in the settings, but that can also be risky and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your device is successfully wiped. Here are some tips to wipe your phone: 

Unpair all devices

Disconnect any bluetooth connections to watches or headphones or any device to which you connect your phone to.

Sign out of all services

This includes iMessages and your App Store. Delete credentials from browsers. Our browsers are great at remembering our passwords for everything – bank logins, email logins, and social media logins.  

Backup your device

Restoring your data is an important step to take before completely erasing it from another device. Keep all of your important information in one place that is only accessible to you. 

Erase all content

I’ve mentioned this step a lot, but just because it’s crucial doesn’t mean it’s the only step you should take. When erasing and deleting all content in the settings, double-check that it’s really gone. Sometimes, the device will glitch and refrain from permanently deleting all of your data. Taking the extra few minutes to ensure that your phone resembles a brand new one with zero information on it is worth it, trust me! 

Remove the SIM card

SIM cards store all of your information, including phone numbers, text messages, and billing information. SIM cards are only valuable to you, the owner, so you should never leave one behind. 

What Happens If Your Device Falls Into The Wrong Hands 

Years back in high school I gave a used iPhone to a classmate in need of one. I was sure to have wiped the phone completely. But filled with anticipation and excitement for the new iPhone, I paid little attention to the old one. After a few weeks I noticed fraudulent charge emails and received unfamiliar receipts.

I came to the unpleasant realization that the phone I had given had not successfully been cleared. Moreover the new owner of my phone had access to all of my personal information. After weeks of frustration, I asked for the phone back. Once it was returned, my classmate told me that he had wiped the phone completely and that neither of our information was on it anymore.

Of course, he was sorry and embarrassed. Once I had the phone back, I noticed that the phone was not erased. Sounds strange, right? We had both attempted to wipe the phone but failed to. It goes to prove how erasing all the contents and setting on the device doesn’t always work. 

Your Privacy Is Important 

Most smart devices are designed to save your personal information to avoid you from the hassle of remembering all of your passwords. They save passwords to log into your accounts every time you want to access them. And while you may think you’ve erased everything, it could still be loaded with data – the sort of thing identity thieves can use to target you. It’s a security risk most of us don’t know about. 

Of course, if your device is successfully wiped, you’re in the clear from any potential harm. But as discussed, it’s a lot more difficult to do than people think. So, what happens if your uncleared device falls into the hands of a thief or scammer? 

With access to all of your personal and private information, a thief or scammer can do just about anything they please. And because digital wallets are so common now, it’s easier than ever before to use your credit cards without wasting any time. A scammer can then reset credentials for the victim’s financial data and completely take over all of your accounts, such as your email and bank account. 

Learn more about Found Me and protect your child’s identity.

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