Q: What should I do to get rid of personal information on my smartphone before I sell it? — M.
A: Smartphone technology continues to evolve at a breathtaking pace, and resale values on popular phones are often an enticing way to upgrade to the newest model.
It’s important to remember that your smartphone is a really small, but powerful computer that contains more personal information than anything else you own.
If an ID thief gets a hold of your smartphone, the first thing they’ll do is start searching through your emails to figure out what online accounts you have. They then go to each website’s “I forgot my password” page to have a password reset sent to the account on your smartphone (and they are off to the races).
If you use a webmail system (AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.), they can also lock you out of your own email account using your smartphone while they do their dirty work.
You want to make sure that you wipe all that sensitive data off before you turn it over to some stranger, and it’s fairly easy to do on any device.
WARNING: Before you perform a secure wipe of any device, make absolutely sure that you have a backup copy of all your photos, music, contacts or whatever you care about. Make sure you actually pull this information up on your computer or another smartphone to verify that you have everything you care about first.
iPhone users can securely erase all data by tapping Settings/General and scrolling down to the very bottom option, which is Reset. In the Reset menu, choose the “Erase All Contents and Settings.” (These steps also work on the iPad and iPod Touch, which can also be loaded with personal information).
There are many Blackberry models that can have slightly different menu structures, but most users can go into the Options menu, then “Security” and then “Security Wipe” to run the extensive process (it can take 5 to 10 minutes depending upon the model).
If you want specific instructions for your exact Blackberry model, simply do a Google search for “factory reset for Blackberry (model name/number).”
The Android platform also has so many different versions, but they generally have the factory reset in the Settings menu under either the “Storage” or “Privacy” menus. It’s also best to do a Google search for the reset instructions on your specific device and operating system version.
With both Blackberry and Android handsets, you also need to pay attention to the expansion memory cards. Either wipe them as well or remove them before you sell your handset.
Once you feel comfortable that you’ve wiped the data, you’ll have numerous online options for selling your phone. Before you go through the hassle and uncertainty of selling your phone to a stranger, let your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other online friends know that you have a phone for sale.
To help you understand what your phone might be worth, check with the virtual pawn shops that have simple online tools for determining value.
Gazelle (http://www.gazelle.com ) seems to offer some of the highest prices, especially if you have a damaged phone (screen, etc.)
SellCell (http://www.sellcell.com ), BuyMyTronics (http://www.buymytronics.com ) and NextWorth (http://www.nextworth.com ) are a few other sites that you can use to determine the value or if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling it on Craigslist or eBay.
But remember, the prices that you are quoted are based on the condition you believe the phone is in, which the company could dispute once you ship it to them. If you know there are functional issues, water or cosmetic damage, expect the actual payment to be lower.
• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.