|Thinking of buying that new cell phone with the larger screen and super-soft keypad? Donating the old company phone to charity or just leaving it around the office? |
Well before you do either, be sure that your voicemails, phone book and other sensitive information have been deleted from your old device.
People often use cell phones in the same manner that they use personal computers -- to store and share personal, and typically sensitive, information. But just as users take extra steps to protect their computers from being hacked into and their information being stolen when they discard or donate computers, users should go the extra mile when disposing of old cell phones.
Remember that today’s cell phone has the computing capacity of a full sized computer from previous decades. Privacy protected call lists and contact numbers along with documents, presentations and financial studies often are transmitted via cell phone – and can remain present in the memory of discarded phones.
The Federal Trade Commission, the country’s consumer protection agency, suggests removing the memory card from the phone and then programming the phone to delete personal information contained in the phone.
To permanently remove the information from your phone’s operating system, the FTC recommends checking your owner’s manual, the wireless provider’s Web site or the company that manufactured the phone for tips.
Once your data has been removed, the FTC suggests recycling, selling or donating your old phone.
Cell phone manufacturers, service providers, and non-profit groups often have programs to refurbish mobile devices or recycle their components, including accessories such as chargers. Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information on electronic product recycling programs at http://www.epa.gov/.
More than 1,500 branches of the U.S. Postal Service offer a postage free program that allows customers to recycle small electronics and inkjet cartridges. For more information, visit http://www.usps.gov/.
In addition, many organizations collect old mobile devices for charitable purposes, while others will purchase your phone and resell it to another party.
The EPA asks that owners not place their old phones in the trash because the units contain batteries and are made of heavy metals, which end up in landfills and can be harmful to the environment. Contact your local health or sanitation agency for proper disposal tips.
To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, contact the FTC at www.ftc.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).