How to Safely Dispose of Your Mobile Device

Are you thinking of replacing your phone? Maybe it’s time for an upgrade, or maybe you just like having the newest technology in the palm of your hands. No matter what, you’ll need to know what to do with your old device to safeguard your personal information. 
Since we use our phones so much, there is a lot of personal data on these devices – maybe even more than you realize – including:

  • Where you live, work, and places you visit
  • Contact details for everyone in your address book
  • Phone call history
  • Text messages
  • Web browsing history, search history, cookies, and cached pages
  • Personal photos, videos, and audio recordings
  • Stored passwords
  • Health-related information

Wiping Your Device
Regardless of how you dispose of your mobile device, such as donating it, exchanging it for a new one, giving it to another family member, reselling it, or even throwing it out, you need to be sure you erase all sensitive information. The easiest way to do this is to reset your device. For detailed instructions on how to “wipe” your device, read your owner’s manual or check the website of your mobile provider or the device manufacturer. An even more secure step is to make sure you have encryption enabled on your device before resetting it. On most recent mobile devices, the easiest way to do this is to simply enable a screen lock (which hopefully you have enabled already). Finally, we highly recommend you backup your device before resetting it.

SIM and External Cards
In addition to your device, you also need to consider what to do with your SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card. A SIM card is what a mobile device uses to make a cellular or data connection. When you wipe your device, the SIM card retains information about your account and is tied to you. If you are keeping your phone number and moving to a new device, talk to your phone service provider about transferring your SIM card. If this is not possible, keep your old SIM card and physically destroy it to prevent someone else from reusing it to impersonate you and gain access to your information or accounts. Finally, some Android mobile devices utilize a removable SD (Secure Digital) card for additional storage. Remove these external storage cards from your mobile device prior to disposal. These cards can often be reused in new mobile devices or can be used as generic storage on your computer with a USB adapter. If reusing your SD card is not possible, then just like your old SIM card, we recommend you physically destroy it.

If you are not sure about any of the steps covered above, or if your device reset options are different, take your mobile device to the store you bought it from or cell service provider, and get help from a trained technician.

For more tips on how to protect your confidential information visit SEFCU’s Privacy page