November 30, 2022

Be careful when disposing of old computers, smartphones, tablets

If you have an old couch you want to replace you might call your local trash pickup service to find out how to dispose of it the right way. They may tell you to place it on the curb with a sticker. However, if you try to do the same thing with your old computer or laptop without doing more, you’re asking for trouble.

Identity thieves love to get hold of discarded electronics that might contain valuable personal information. Folks who religiously shred old bank statements may not consider doing the equivalent when disposing of their electronic devices.

Think about all the personal information your computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet may contain. It may have passwords, account numbers, medical information, tax returns and other personal information. E-mails and your past social media posts or photos may contain personal information you wouldn’t want to share with the world. In the wrong hands, this information may make you susceptible to identity theft.

To avoid becoming the victim of identity theft when discarding or recycling old PC’s, laptops, Smartphones and tablets, do the following:

For PC’s and laptops

• Save the files you’ll need. Copy them to a USB drive, a CD Rom or an external hard drive or transfer them to your new computer or laptop.

• Remove the hard drive from the computer or laptop or use trustworthy online or over-the-counter software to wipe the hard drive of your data.

• If you remove the hard drive, you may wish to safely physically destroy it.

For Smartphones and tablets

• Check the manufacturers’ recommendations for wiping data. Depending on the device, it may require resetting the system.

• But first, make sure to back up your important documents, photos and other items to a hard drive or to trustworthy Internet “cloud” storage.

Recycling, donating, or simply replacing outdated electronics can be beneficial. To do it the right way and avoid identity theft, make sure to clear out your personal information beforehand. For more information about all forms of identity theft, visit the website of the Iowa Identity Theft Victim Assistance Coalition at