How To Safely Dispose of Your Cell Phone

Many people never think of this, but your cell phone may contain a wealth of information about your friends, family and associates.

You may have:

  • Addresses and numbers for work, home and mobile
  • Birth dates
  • Even pictures of the person or their family

When you trade in that phone or throw it away, you are giving all of this sensitive information into the hands of a complete stranger. To safely give up your phone, you should wipe it first. has a nice service to allow you to do this.

  • Go to the Wireless Recycling Cell Phone Data Eraser Page
  • Follow the instructions to download a wiping utility for your phone.
  • You may then choose to follow the last instruction (dropping it off at their recycling center) or to trade it in to a mobile service provider.


  • If you do this, all information on your phone will be destroyed. You should back it up somewhere first.
  • If you are staying with the same service provider, you should back up all your contacts to the SIM card (see your phone’s manual), then remove the card prior to wiping the phone.
  • If you are moving to a new provider you will need to backup your information in another way. Many phones have a way for you to send your data to your PC or to a PDA (IR or Bluetooth). If you can back it up like this, you may not have to enter all that info back in to your new phone.

Excerpted From Information Week

Used Cell Phones, PDAs Are Treasure Trove Of Confidential Data

Most used cell phones and PDAs contain personal or business information that their former owners never got around to deleting.
By Gregg Keizer

Sep 4, 2006 12:00 AM

Most used cell phones and PDAs contain personal information that their former owners neglected to adequately delete, according to security company Trust Digital.

Trust Digital examined a small sample of used phones and PDAs purchased from sellers on eBay and recovered data from nine out of 10 of the devices.

“The file system on your cell phone or PDA is just like the one on your PC’s hard drive,” says Norm Laudermilch, the CTO at Trust Digital who restored the data. “If you delete a file, you’re not really overwriting the data. All it’s doing is changing the index of the file system or the file’s pointers.”

That makes salvaging data from discarded devices a snap, Laudermilch says. “It’s really very simple. There are free tools on the Internet, as well as commercial tools that can resurrect data. We wrote our own little tool, about 30 lines of code.”

Among the data that Laudermilch restored were credit card account numbers, sensitive chat logs, business E-mails about contract negotiations, and computer passwords.

Because phone and PDA data is stored in flash memory, it’s retained even if the device’s battery is drained or removed. To delete flash memory data, users have to do a “hard reset,” which returns the hardware to its factory-fresh condition. Each phone and PDA maker uses a different hard reset procedure; some, in fact, can only be carried out by a technician or after users contact the phone service’s help desk.

Phones and PDAs aren’t the only electronic gear that isn’t properly wiped before being tossed or sold. Studies of the contents of used hard drives have found similar results: a wealth of data, some of it confidential or personal.

Trust Digital recommends that users secure cell phones and PDAs using passwords to lock out casual snooping in case the devices are lost.