All Sections

Selling your old phone? Delete everything before you do so

Cleaning up your old phone before selling it on eBay really ought to extend beyond giving the screen a wipe down with a microfibre cloth.

Whether you’re selling your phone on Gumtree or eBay, or even sending it back to your network if you’re due for an upgrade, you should consider that you’re effectively passing your old phone into the hands of a stranger.

So everything (read: everything) that’s stored on your old phone and SIM card that you don’t delete could eventually be seen by someone you don’t know.

That includes saucy texts, your gran’s mobile number, pictures of your home/flat (where people could spot for potential break in points) Facebook/Twitter logins, bank details, Wi-Fi passwords, PIN numbers… the whole lot.

Life assistance company CPP recently purchased a selection of used phones and second-hands SIMs – researchers found that some 54 per cent of mobile phones and SIM cards contained sensitive personal information, or the sort which could be used to put someone at risk of credit card fraud. CPP found 247 pieces of data in 19 of the 35 phones 27 of the 50 SIM cards it bought for the survey.

Given that people often use the same passwords for different logins, if would only take a few personal details (say, figuring out your Facebook password) for someone to log in to your Amazon or eBay account and go on a spree.

This isn’t the first time this has happened either, as CNET writer Rory Reid found out when he picked up a refurbished Nokia E65. It turns out whoever owned the phone before left a few other things besides a list of numbers and email addresses.

Close-up pictures of genitals aside, Reid said that: “Within minutes I had determined his full name, home phone number, who he banks with, his place of employment, his local pub, the places he DJs at the weekend and the name and phone number of his partner.” This was back in 2008 – it looks like people are still leaving all this kind of stuff on their old phones for people to see.

Before selling on your old phone, CPP recommends that you log out of all social networking and remote back-up apps and delete them.

You should tell your phone to ‘forget’ the Wi-Fi routers that you sign into, back up any pictures you want to keep to your computer before performing a full factory reset.

Be sure to wipe anything that’s stored to your microSD card if you’re going to be selling that on as well. CPP also recommends that you destroy your SIM card as well.

Comments