Don't Waste Your Money: Used electronics contain personal data - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Don't Waste Your Money: Clear personal data before returning electronics

(Toledo News Now) -

If you need to return any sort of electronic device to a store, you need to make sure you remove your personal information from it.

January and February are big months for gadget returns, as customers send back electronics that don't seem to be working properly or that they no longer want.

Before you return a gadget, we have a caution from one man who learned the one thing you must do before you box it up.

Brought iPad Back And Problems Began

Sean Morath decided he couldn't afford to keep both his phone and iPad he received over the holidays. So he decided the iPad had to go back.

"I played with it for a few days, decided I miss my smart phone - it's just too convenient - so I brought the iPad back," said Morath.

Morath says Best Buy gave him a full refund with no problems. But a few weeks later, he received a strange e-mail regarding his used iPad.

According to Morath, the e-mail stated that "a friend of his just bought a new iPad and when he opened it up, it said 'Hello Sean Morath.'"

Morath says it turns out his used iPad was resold without his name and credit card information removed.

"The new buyer could have been able to purchase apps and movies, because to register your iPad, you have to put in a bank account or credit card number," explained Morath. "He could have bought apps or anything, and it would have gone straight to my bank account."

Best Buy says stores are supposed to erase and reset all returned electronics. The company replied, "We are sorry to hear about this incident, and we will take the appropriate action to rectify this situation."

What You Need To Do

However, to avoid this risk, if you are returning an item, you should take proactive steps to wipe it clean before you rebox it. 

Web forums are filled with chatter about used laptops and tablets containing credit card numbers and other private information. While someone should not be able to make an iTunes purchase without your password, it's still disconcerting to know any of your info is on there.

Some options:

  • Go to your gadget's settings and look for an erase, reset, or restore icon. On the iPhone and iPad, there is a clear "erase" button, which will delete your personal data.
  • Do a Google search for wiping out personal information on whatever gadget you have. You should find a number of postings with instructions on how to do it.
  • Have a store employee do it as you watch.

"I would either find someone you know who knows how to clear them out, or demand it gets erased in front of you before you leave the store," suggested Morath.

Morath says next time he is going to make sure all his data is erased before he returns any gadget.

This is especially important to remember if you will be trading in an old cell phone in the near future, so you don't lose your personal info and don't waste your money.

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