Getting rid of your mobile phone? Be careful; do not give your identity away!

Without purging the data in your mobile phone when you throw it away, recycle it, or transfer it, could cost you.  Today’s phones are comparable to mini-computers in their ability to store personal and often private information (e.g. text messages, voice notes, email, personal contacts, phone numbers, notes, reminders, addresses, photos, videos, etc…).  This information is stored in the mobile phones internal memory and or on the SIM card –Subscriber Identity Module, which is a removable memory chip in many phone models.  The memory in mobile phones are non-volatile memory that can retain the stored information even when not powered. It is important that you protect your identity and information; as well as, the identity and information of other people.


How big of a problem is this?

When I started thinking about this and researching the topic I wanted to find some supporting (reliable) data that hopefully would reveal and convince readers the magnitude of this problem.  I actually found (2)-two articles that hopefully will drive the point home.  You can click on any of the links for a direct connect to the original sources.

22 January 2009: Regenersis tops 2m handsets processed in 2008 – one every 15 seconds — but finds that 99% of handsets received contained personal data

Regenersis, Europe’s largest mobile phone recycling and reuse provider, announced that they processed over 2 million handsets for reuse and recycling in 2008.  The Company processed 2,007,652 handsets, the equivalent of one every 15 seconds.   Handsets are cleared of all data and fully tested.  If a handset is beyond repair or too old it is sent for safe recycling, ensuring nothing goes to landfill. Regenersis studied a random sample of 2000 handsets processed during the first week in December  and found that 99% of handsets received contained some sort of personal data, including:  Contacts, SMS messages, pictures, music, videos, calendar entries, emails, notes, mailing lists and to do lists.  In some cases, extremely sensitive information was contained, including bank details, addresses, and confidential emails.

12 December 2008McCain Campaign Sells Info-Loaded Blackberry to FOX 5 Reporter

ARLINGTON, Va. – Private information at bargain prices.  It was a high-tech flub at the McCain-Palin campaign headquarters in Arlington when Fox 5’s Investigative Reporter Tisha Thompson bought a Blackberry device containing confidential campaign information. When we charged them up in the newsroom, we found one of the $20 Blackberry phones contained more than 50 phone numbers for people connected with the McCain-Palin campaign, as well as hundreds of emails from early September until a few days after election night.

How to protect your identity when you get rid of your phone…

  • Notify your mobile provider and terminate all services.
  • If you are changing providers, purge the information on your online account and delete the account.
  • Find what method(s) are available for your phone model, from the mobile provider or manufacturer’s web site (or user’s manual) to reset (format) and/or overwrite the data:

The memory in these mobile phones/devices are very similar to a hard drive in your computer.  You can delete the data, but it is not actually gone.  The data can be retrieved from a phones memory module using third party software. A nice resource available on the internet, to assist you with purging your phone,  is Cell Phone Data Eraser.  It is a tool that provides deletion instructions for specific cell phones.

  • Return the phone to the provider and request that the data be deleted.  Verify that the data has been deleted.
  • Remove the SIM Card and reuse it or destroy it.


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5 thoughts on “Getting rid of your mobile phone? Be careful; do not give your identity away!

Add yours

  1. TechPaul,

    As the world goes more digital; the more our identity will be compromised. Mobile phones are an excellent example of this.

    As always, thank you for your supporting comments and guidance.



    1. G,

      That is one thing I am not really hooked to is a mobile phone… I love gadgets; mobile phones, forget it. Expensive and someone is always calling.

      Thanks for visiting.



  2. i think my industry (construction) invented the mobile phone. i carry two 24/7. love those “sprinkler pipe is leaking” calls at 2am.

    i feel like an er doctor sometimes!


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