Don’t Let Your Old Cell Phone Give Away Your Identity

Earth Day is April 22nd and many cities are offering recycling services for electronics in celebration. The Better Business Bureau, for example, is holding its annual Secure Your ID Day on Saturday, with local offices holding shredding and e-waste recycling events.

Whether you're looking to do some spring cleaning or just upgrade your devices, make sure to wipe away any personal data before recycling them so hackers can't get their hands on your personal information. (Shredding documents is also a good way to keep papers with personal information out of the wrong hands.)

As a rule, you shouldn't throw away computers, cell phones and the like because the batteries are filled with lead, mercury, and other chemicals that are toxic for the environment. Throwing them in the trash means letting those elements break down in a landfill and potentially enter the water supply.

Here's how you can safely and securely get rid of those electronics.

Responsibly Dispose of Electronics

  1. In order to responsibly dispose of unwanted electronics, your first step has to be to remove any trace of the old data on them. If a device will power on, then you can most likely retrieve and delete old information. It's even better if you can launch a factory reset of the device, which should initialize it and reset it, destroying any old information.
  2. If you want to recycle a computer, consider removing and keeping the hard drive before disposing of it at a recycling center. There are several options for recycling all year long once you're certain it doesn't contain any key information. Contact your local recycling facility or your local electronics retailer to see which devices they may take, how they handle the devices, what their policy is if any data left behind.
  3. Donating cell phones and tablets to charities is another great way to dispose of them. Some charities sell the used devices and use the proceeds; others provide old cell phones and tablets to people in need, like victims of domestic violence and natural disasters.

However you choose to discard your unwanted electronics, remember to protect your privacy and the environment at the same time.

Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.