— Fa La La La La, La La La La

Deck the Halls with Stolen Identities, Fa La La La La

It is that time of the year… Out with the old and in with the new. With the end of the year approaching FAST, we start looking at new trends, with many of these in technology. While you are looking at all the all of the new laptops, phones, and tablets, do not forget about your old equipment. There is A LOT of data left on old equipment, and you don’t want your holiday season ruined with your information being stolen! Here’s a few tips on how to keep yourself safe, and how to avoid those dumpster divers from taking your personal information:

The trashcan is NOT your friend.

This is the first place that people will look when it comes to anything of value. You may think “Well I reset my computer to the factory settings, they shouldn’t be able to get anything of value”. Well, there are ways to still access your information, EVEN after you have erased your hardware. Your best bet is to take your hard drive OUT of your system and smash it with a hammer (Office Space style) or take it to get shredded (see next tip below on how to get it shredded).

Check before you sell your phone to someone.

Did you know that there are people out there that purchase old cell phones not for the phone, but for the data that can be accessed on that phone? Phones nowadays have more information than personal computers. When selling your phone, remember it is like you are handing over your entire identity.

Take these three steps into consideration:

  1. Take out your SD card. Not only to take your information with you, but also so you can use your SD card in your next phone.
  2. Take it to a REPUTABLE service who specializes in flashing phones; wiping them completely clean of carriers and information. I would recommend using the BBB.com (Better Business Bureau) to find companies who have a positive reputation in this arena.
  3. Check to see if your phone is even worth selling. In many cases, older phones are only worth under $50. By the time you do all the work to try to sell it at a tiny fraction of the cost, in may be worth it to just smash it into bits (*Again, Office Space style).

I want to donate it to someone who needs it more than me.

That is a GREAT idea, but again, don’t just donate your computers or phones without assuring that your computer hard drive is wiped, and your phone is flashed. When you are looking to donate, look for institutions that specialize in that.

I recommend BlueStar Recyclers! They are a non-profit organization who employ hard working individuals with disabilities and provide them with industry education and fair working wages. They are in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder; and specialize in recycling old computers and technological components. I have worked with this organization for YEARS, and they are amazing at what they do. Their facilities are also wonderful to tour. It is FREE to donate your computers and wipe your hard drives. Now, if you want your hard drive destruction certified, there is a small fee but that goes right back to the employees of BlueStar Recyclers. Check them out at Blustarrecyclers.com

I got the best of the BEST new (enter device here) and threw out the packaging.

WHOA Cowboy, wait a second… That packaging is a BIG red flag to thieves and can cost you big time. This time of year, porch pirates and dumpster divers are hot on the trails of lingering items just waiting to be stolen. You may be excited to have that new TV sitting in your living room but putting the box on the corner waiting to be picked up by a sanitation worker is a major indicator to thieves as to what you may have sitting in your house.

Collect the boxes and take them to be recycled. DO NOT have any of these boxes associated with your address, as it is just an invitation for thieves to come into your home and “shop around”.

It is very easy to be taken advantage of when someone obtains your information. They do not care about you and have no compassion for your identity. All they care about how much they are going to get from your mistake. Avoid the headaches and take an extra step to make sure you are not another statistic.

AND when all else fails, just take a baseball bat to your fax machine (kidding, don’t do that).

Crystal Johnston
CMO – 24/7 Networks

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