NORFOLK -- With people continually looking to upgrade their smartphones, the second-hand market for the devices is enormous. Often, owners look to fund their purchases by selling the old phones through Web sites and at stores.
Before doing that, it's a no-brainer that owners should clear personal information from the phones, information including contacts and passwords.
Because smartphones typically are user-friendly, the process for wiping them is pretty simple. Despite that fact, there are some things in the process that people can overlook, things that could put your information up for sale, too.
"I can honestly say about 60 percent of the phones in just these two cases still had people's personal information on them," said Shadon Tonge, as she stood in Wireless Concepts in Norfolk.
Tonge and her family own that store and one in Suffolk. The business provides wireless service and it also deals in the purchase and resale of phones. Some people walk into the stores ready to sell. Tonge buys from online marketplaces, including eBay.
"I've seen purchases that were made via the Internet with your history. I can, literally, go click and go right to the pages of what you've purchased online, that maybe you shouldn't have been Googling," she stated.
Wireless Concepts handles all types of smartphones. In the case of devices running versions of the Android Operating System, Tonge explained clearing personal information is pretty straightforward.
Typically, you will look for Privacy Settings to do a Factory Data Reset. Each phone will be different. Some will prompt you, asking if you want to erase the SD card. Holding a model that asked that question, Tonge said, "If I don't check this, everything that's on that SD card like your credit card, your passwords, are not gonna erase. You're only gonna be simply erasing the content of the phone, such as your emails, your text messages, your call log, and your contacts. Everything on that SD card will remain the same."
If the smartphone doesn't give you the option to erase the card, Tonge said you'll need to pull it and reformat it. Because reformatting doesn't always clear every bit of information, she recommended pulling the SD card before selling.
"They come in here with their phones. I take them out and give them back to them. It means nothing to me and the world to you," stressed Tonge.
iPhones don't have SD cards, so they don't face the "SD issue."
Kyle Brocke is an iCracked Technician who specializes in iPhone repairs. He also buys phones from people who are looking to sell.
"It's been a few cases where I've seen, you know, you'll get residual emails left in there, you know, if you go to open up one of the email apps, it leaves the last person's email address in there, not necessarily with the password that can log into it," offered Brocke.
He said iPhone users have a couple choices when it comes to clearing out information.
"You can do it through the phone and just do a general reset, and it gives you multiple, different options whether you just want to reset settings, do a full reset of the phone meaning all the data's wiped, and, then, the other option is you can do it through iTunes," explained Brocke.
He added using iTunes seems to be more effective in making sure that no trace information remains.
Brocke and Tonge said if you have wiped the smartphone correctly, upon restart, it will seem to be exactly the way it was when you got the phone.
"I tell everyone, my best friend -- even though we own a store -- is Google. If you don't know how to do it, Google it," Tonge said. "Just ask Google how do you master reset your make and model of the phone, and Google will tell you 5 or 6 different Web sites that will show you."