On Your Side Alert: Disposing of your mobile device

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - These days, people practically live on their cell phones. If you use one, then you know they hold some pretty important information. If you're thinking about upgrading, you may be wondering what steps you need to take to safely get rid of your old phone.

Cell phones have become a must, most people won't leave home without one. Erin Mitten, with Cell Phone Technicians says with that popularity, comes some risks. He says consumers need to understand how to properly dispose of any old phones. "Most customers don't understand that the information on the phone is at a critical risk when they hand over a cell phone to just any E-Cycler. It's important that they wipe their data from their cell phone using a factory reset," He explains.

Mitten says a factory reset is the easiest way to delete information from your phone. It takes your phone back to the original settings and erases all the information you've stored. For information on how to do this, check your phone's manual or visit your phone manufacture's website. "It's almost a hundred percent of customers that don't understand that they need to wipe their phone before they recycle. They often assume it is going to be taken care of on the back end by the E-Cycler," Mitten says.

Your phone contains sensitive information like addresses, phone numbers, passwords, emails and more. If you don't wipe it clean, you could be leaving crooks a gold mine. "If an identity thief got your information off of a phone, you are not going to know until it is too late," Mitten tells us. He says most of the time, companies that recycle phones will wipe it clean for you but stresses, they are not required to do so. It's why he advises consumers to do it themselves and then double check.

Once you're sure the phone is clean, you can take it to companies like Mitten's or your service provider to recycle. Another important tip, don't just assume your phone is wiped clean if it's broken or looks damaged. Mitten says even the phone is not working, your information is still there. "That is when you are at your most dangerous point is when you assume the phone is not working and you send it off," Mitten says. Your best bet, if the phone is not working, is to take it to a professional to have the data erased.

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