Always Wipe Your Devices Before Trade-In

9 August 2015

With the litany of new mobile devices available, there’s a good chance that you’ll be looking to upgrade your old ones soon. Trading in old smartphones and tablets is a smart way to get more value for them than you would if they just languished in a drawer. However, to avoid increasing your risk of identity theft, you should undergo the trade-in process in as secure a manner as possible. To that effect, here are a few things you should do beforehand:

  • Back up all of your data: It’s a good idea to regularly back up any important information anyway, but it’s especially important if you won’t be able to access the device again. Even if you think that your data is syncing automatically, running one last manual check before trade-in can help you avoid a major issue down the line. If you have an Apple product, iCloud offers a built-in service. If you have another sort of product, there is an entire suite of third-party applications, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, that you can use for this purpose.
  • Remove all applications: Even something as innocuous as a game could have lingering personal information attached to it. In this situation, it is far better to be safe than sorry, so get rid of anything that differentiates the device from one fresh from the factory.
  • Encrypt before restoring to factory settings: Even if your device seems like it has been fully stripped of your personal information, there might still be some lingering data that could be used to identify you. This is a result of the way in which some computers “delete” data during a factory reset: rather than removing it from the hard drive immediately, your machine will store it in a manner such that it’s available to be overwritten. While for most users, this functions identically to a deletion, for a savvy hacker, this is an opening. This data can include phone numbers, pictures and emails. However, you can add an extra layer of protection by encrypting your information before a wipe. This makes your device alter every piece of memory available, and when combined with a factory reset, goes a long way towards making your data inaccessible.
  • Wipe the device clean: After you’ve encrypted your data, delete everything possible and restore the device to factory settings. Your goal should be to present a phone, tablet or laptop that is indistinguishable from a new one and has no trace of your usage.
  • Double-check: Sometimes, a simple last-minute check can make all of the difference. Look over your emails, photos, call logs and downloads to ensure that nothing remains from your time with the device. It also doesn’t hurt to ask an employee of the company that manufactured it if you’ve followed all of the steps properly.
    If you’ve recently traded in a mobile device, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on any transactions that could indicate that your identity has been compromised. A credit monitoring company can help alert you to certain activity on your credit files that may indicate fraud.

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