So you got a shiny new Apple or Android device for Christmas and now you need to get rid of your old one. According to Roger Entner, quoted in Yahoo Tech you’re in good company because there are plenty of discarded phones every year, with roughly 45% of smartphone owners replacing their phones yearly. (Is it time to upgrade your smartphone?) Don’t make yourself a target for identity theft by unknowingly leaving important information on your device. There are ways to make sure even hidden data doesn’t get recycled along with your device. If you follow these steps before you recycle or sell your device, you will effectively erase all of your personal information.
Back It Up
If you’re anything like me, you live in constant fear of losing your contacts and photos. For this reason, before you start this process, you want to make sure anything you want to keep or transfer to your new device is backed up. Cloud data storage options are becoming popular according to Apple Insider, with 27% of Americans polled by Strategy Analytics using iCloud, followed by 17% using Dropbox and 15% using Amazon Cloud Drive. Saving data either on a computer or on the Cloud will also free up space on your device for more photos and apps.
If you prefer to store your data on something a little more tangible, a hard backup works just as well. If you’re backing up an Apple device to a computer you will need to connect it and open iTunes. You should see an option to backup your device once you do this. For Android users the process is similar, connect your device to a computer via a USB cable, select “USB Connection” from the main menu and then copy all of your data onto the computer.
If your device has a SIM or SD card, you should remove those pieces of hardware before parting with your device. These cards — found in many phones — store information and data about the account holder. There could be information on these cards that would allow someone to access your data even if you have erased it in the software. The SIM card tray is located on the side of most phones and there is a small hole you can use to open it and get the card out.
This section is mostly for the Android users reading this article because Apple devices are already encrypted as long as you have a set up a passcode. If you do not have a passcode on your device, go to Settings in order to set one before you start this process.
I know the word “encrypt” might conjure images of intense computer hackers and coding, but don’t be intimidated by it in this case. Once you encrypt your device, you will have to put in a passcode to get into it every time, so only do this when you are completely ready to wipe your device. This process can also take quite a while, so be sure to have your device plugged in when you start.
Android makes it pretty easy to encrypt your device by going to Settings -> Security -> Encrypt Phone.
No matter what kind of device you’re trying to wipe, you will need to reset it to the factory settings. This is where you will definitely lose any pictures, contacts, etc so make extra sure you have backed everything up.
Apple owners, go to Settings -> General -> Reset -> Erase all content and settings. It’s that easy, a few clicks and your data is gone and your phone is encrypted.
This process is pretty similar for Android users but the actual wording might be slightly different depending on your device. The path should look something like: Settings -> Backup and Reset -> Factory Data Reset. This will erase all of your data and anything that may be left will be encrypted.
For those Android owners with particularly sensitive data or those who have been burned by identity theft in the past, this last step will ensure that even if someone cracks your encryption they will not get access to any real data. Identity theft is becoming more and more common in American and the Federal Trade Commission reports that there are 9.9 million incidents of identity theft every year.
Loading dummy data such as stock photos or fake contacts and then factory resetting your device again will ensure that the data someone gets if they get into your device will be this dummy data instead of any sensitive information.
Go Forth and Delete Data
Whether you believe data is safest on the cloud or prefer storing it the old fashioned way, make sure you don’t leave anything on an old device you wouldn’t want the next owner to see. If you wish you had a new gadget to force you to wipe the one you have, BLINQ has plenty of tablets and smartphones to choose from.