Tips to More Confidently Erase Old Smartphone Data
Sep 02, 2014 | 1723 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

With the anticipated release of the iPhone 6 along with many other cell phone upgrades on the horizon, many consumers are considering selling, donating, or disposing of their old mobile devices. While “wiping” (deleting the stored data) the old device is recommended, simply deleting the information from the phone may not completely sanitize it. BBB warns consumers that additional steps are also a best practice in preventing personal information from being recovered.

Avast, an anti-virus company, recently purchased twenty different mobile devices and tested them to see what data they could recover. From those twenty devices, the company was able to recover 40,000 photos including 1,500 family photos, 750 emails, and 250 contacts with names, addresses, SMS messages, and even private financial legal documents, such as a loan application.

With the appropriate recovery tools, some information on the mobile device can still be accessed”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “To have further reassurance that the data has been removed, it is important to take the additional steps to permanently scrub the information and prevent identity theft exposure.”

To help minimize risk, BBB advises the following before selling, donating, or disposing of a smart phone or other mobile device:

Perform a factory reset. Restoring the mobile device to the original factory settings is a relatively straightforward process which takes little time. Once completed, this process will delete all music, photos, videos, contacts, calendar information and other data. It’s also a good idea to override storage with insignificant data, such as photos of a tree.

Default Erase or Manually Encrypt before deleting the information. Apple phones have a default erase setting which scrambles the information. Android phones must be encrypted manually. Instructions are available online for Google, Windows, and Apple devices.

Remove your SIM and/or SD card. Once you sell or trade in your old phone, a new SIM and/or SD card will be provided for the new user. And while only a small amount of data is stored on these cards, there’s no reason to put your information at risk.

Use a remote wipe application. These applications allow the user to remotely erase the data stored on your device. It’s a good idea to make sure one of these applications is installed on your new phone as well, in case it is lost or stolen.

Keep up with the best security strategies. Find a reliable IT provider by going to

Keep in mind, most mobile applications and encryption techniques do not guarantee that information will be completely sanitized. Alternatively, if you are apprehensive about information being pulled from your device, it may be a better idea to refrain from selling it.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer and to find businesses and charities you can trust, go to To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903) 581-8373. For more information about scams across North America, sign up for BBB scam alerts by going to:

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