Learn How to Dispose of Cell Phones



Remember when the McCain campaign had that garage sale a few months back and sold two BlackBerries with hundreds of GOP contacts still saved on them? It may have seemed like a silly blunder to those who heard about it at the time, but it turns out that most of us are just as careless with our mobile phones and handheld devices as the McCain staffers were with theirs.

99% of Cell Phone Recyclers Neglect to Erase Data

According to a study by Regenersis, one of the leading electronics recycling firms in the world, 99 percent of recycled cellular phones are handed over with their owners personal information and contact lists completely intact. The company did a random sampling of 2000 devices in the month of December, and found that only a handful of consumers had bothered to delete information like emails, banking data, or addresses.

How to Remove Data Before Handing Over An Old Cell Phone

Very few recyclers offer the service of wiping devices before they pass them along, but even if they did, you’d still be handing over an extensive catalog of personal information to a perfect stranger and trusting them to do the right thing.

To take matters into your own hands:

  • Remove the SIM card from your phone. It’s a little plastic memory card usually located behind the back cover underneath the battery.
  • Call your service provider and ask them to disconnect the phone from your account.

That’s it! That wasn’t hard, was it?

Unfortunately, if you own an iPhone or BlackBerry, it can be a little more complicated but these videos should help:

Erasing a BlackBerry

Erasing an iPhone

An Important Disclaimer

If you’ve got national security secrets on your phone or maybe mission briefings and data from U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s important to remember that there’s no way to completely erase a handheld device. Sophisticated forensic recovery methods are capable of reversing pretty much any data-destroying trick that doesn’t involve a hammer or a blowtorch, so for highly sensitive data, you should probably contact a specialist. For the rest of us though, the above methods should do the trick.

To read more about phone recycling, head on over to Earth911 blog.

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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10 Comments

  1. I have to refrain from using cellular telephones. The few times that I had to use one were in a hospital setting. The nurses required that I use one in order to speak to a consulting physician. On each instance of using the telephone I began to experience a headache which lasted for several hours. I also experienced a degree of disorientation which lasted for several days. I concluded that I am sensitive to the RF radiation that penetrated into my brain. And I wrote nice research paper about RF influence on human’s brain. I also reasoned that it would be good for my health to stay away from these devices unless there was a dire emergency requiring their use.

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