Your electronics are a hub for your personal information. Whether you use your computer to pay your bills, your phone to make online purchases or your game console for entertainment, nearly every device you use contains some form of personal information. If you’re not careful when disposing of old electronics, you could be handing that personal information over to scammers who can use it to steal your identity.
Keep your personal information — and your identity — safe by taking the proper steps when disposing of old electronics. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.
How to Dispose of Electronics
Depending on the device you’re getting rid of, there are certain techniques you can use to ensure that the disposal of your electronic equipment doesn’t result in the theft of your personal information.
Permanently Delete Data
Computers and other devices often house sensitive personal data like banking information, your address or your date of birth. But deleting this information isn’t as easy as pressing “delete” or moving a file to the trash. While this option may remove the data from its location on your device, identity thieves may be able to easily recover the information using data recovery software.
To permanently delete data from a computer hard drive, you may be able to wipe the hard drive using a wiping tool like DBAN. In some cases, the computer may have built-in options that allow you to securely erase the hard drive. To delete personal information from smartphones and tablets, performing a factory reset could be sufficient if the device is encrypted. Most smartphones, including iPhones and Android devices, are encrypted by default.
Remove Memory and SIM Cards
Memory cards are commonly used in digital cameras and phones to store information, but may also be used in TVs, printers and gaming devices. Before you dispose of your electronics, make sure you remove the memory card in addition to permanently deleting information stored directly to the device. If you need to permanently delete data from a memory card, format the card using your computer. Like a computer hard drive, simply deleting information from a memory card doesn’t guarantee the information can’t be recovered by scammers.
Destroy the Device
One of the best ways to ensure scammers can’t access your personal information from an old electronic device is to properly destroy it. On a computer hard drive, information is stored on a magnetic disk, also called a platter, inside the hard drive. That means submerging the hard drive in water won’t do the trick. To dispose of electronics properly and safely, remove the magnetic disk and scratch, shred or smash it to destroy it.
Another option is to take your device to a reputable electronic equipment disposal company that can destroy it for you. These companies will use methods like incineration or shredding to ensure the device is properly destroyed.