Second Hand and Discarded Devices Lead to Identity Theft

A new study was just released by the National Association for Information Destruction. What did it find? Astonishingly, about 40% of all digital devices that are found on the second-hand market had personal information left on them. These include tablets, mobile phones, and hard drives.

The market for second hand items is large, and it’s a good way to find a decent mobile device or computer for a good price. However, many times, people don’t take the time to make sure all their personal information is gone. Some don’t even understand that the data is there. This might include passwords, usernames, company information, tax details, and even credit card data. What’s even more frightening is that this study used simple methods to get the data off the devices. Who knows what could be found if experts, or hackers, got their hands on them. It wouldn’t be surprising to know they found a lot more.

Here are some ways to make sure your devices are totally clean before getting rid of them on the second-hand marketplace:

  • Back It Up – Before doing anything, back up your device.
  • Wipe It – Simply hitting the delete button or reformatting a hard drive isn’t’ enough. Instead, the device has to be fully wiped. For PCs, consider Active KillDisk. For Macs, there is a built in OS X Disk Utility. For phones and tablets, do a factory reset, and then a program called Blancco Mobile.
  • Destroy It – If you can’t wipe it for some reason, it’s probably not worth the risk. Instead, destroy the device. Who knows, it might be quite fun to take a sledge hammer to your old PC’s hard drive, right? If nothing else, it’s a good stress reliever!
  • Recycle It – You can also recycle your old devices, just make sure that the company is legitimate and trustworthy. The company should be part of the e-Stewards or R2, Responsible Recycling, programs. But destroy the hard drive first.

Record It – Finally, make sure to document any donation you make with a receipt. This can be used as a deduction on your taxes and might add a bit to your next tax return.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

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