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Ask Asa: Your Old Smart Phone’s Memory Could End Up Your Headache

Best Thing Is To Keep The Device So There's No Chance ID Can Be Stolen
Android phone. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Android phone. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — You wouldn’t sell a file cabinet loaded with your personal information to strangers. But that may be exactly what happens when you trade in or sell your used smart phone.

It keeps what we need to know close at hand.

“It’s pretty critical. Basically my whole life is on this phone,” one person said.

It provides access to life’s critical details – like a checking account.

“It provides me with a connection to everything that I need,” one person said.

In fact, with memory sizes growing, smart phones today can carry as much of our personal information as we store on a laptop or home computer, CBS 2’s Asa Aarons reported.

“There’s a lot of passwords to the Internet and, like my bank account, my Facebook is all on there,” one person said.

Cyber security expert Robert Siciliano recently bought 30 used devices and then used easily available general use software to open them up.

“People left all their information, their PDF, Word documents, text files, Excel files, home videos, photos, and a lot of pornography. Actually, we found their entire digital lives, enough information to steal their identities and take over existing identities,” Siciliano said.

And remember, those used phones were sold after being wiped clean by the former owners.

So how do you get information off your phone? It’s vital to remove both the SIM and SD cards. Even then, there’s more information to worry about.

“The devices themselves generally have their own storage,” Siciliano said.

The cell phone manufacturers will tell you to go to your menu and restore factory settings to clear your personal information, a procedure Siciliano said works pretty well with BlackBerrys and iPhones. Androids, though, might require an additional app to remove all memory.

Wiping is well worth the effort. If you can’t just keep the cell phone and chalk up the $50 you could’ve sold it for to the cost of securing your cyber life.

If there is something that you would like to ask Asa about, you can contact him here.