Don’t Leave Your Data Behind

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August 15, 2008 LITTLE ROCK Today, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to remind Arkansas consumers to guard against the potential exposure of personal information when buying a new cell phone or other mobile electronic device.The ubiquitous cell phone has become an essential communication device for hundreds of thousands of Arkansas consumers. And these mobile electronic devices, including Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) have become rapidly more complex over the past few years, McDaniel said. With the improvement in features and capabilities of cell phones, consumers often decide to upgrade to a newer model. But, when doing so, consumers need to be mindful of what happens to the old phone.The Attorney General noted that cell phones can contain sensitive personal information, including addresses, phone numbers, passwords, account numbers, e-mail, voicemail, phone logs and even medical and prescription information. Just as a consumer would never dispose of a laptop computer without removing sensitive information from the hard drive, consumers should not dispose of old cell phones without assuring themselves that sensitive personal information cannot be retrieved from the device after it is out of their possession. The Attorney General suggests that a consumer consult the owners manual, the manufacturers Web site, or the wireless providers Web site for instructions on how to delete sensitive personal information from the cell phone or other mobile electronic device. This may require several steps, and may be different for each type of cell phone or device.Once your old phone has been stripped of all personal information, you can dispose of it with confidence that it will not be the source of your becoming a victim of identity theft, McDaniel said. The Federal Trade Commission has listed options for the proper disposal of cell phones, which include the following:1) Recycling - Cell phone manufacturers, service providers, and non-profit groups often have programs to refurbish mobile devices or recycle their components, including peripheral devices like chargers.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information on electronic product recycling programs at www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/recycle/ecycling/donate.htm. The U.S. Postal Services free Mail Back pilot program allows customers to recycle small electronics and inkjet cartridges. Some 1,500 Post Offices have free envelopes so you can mail back PDAs, cell phones, digital cameras, and music players without having to pay for postage. For more information, visit http://www.usps.gov/. 2) Donating Many organizations collect old mobile devices for charitable purposes.3) Reselling Some individuals and organizations will buy your old mobile devices. You can find names and addresses online.4) Disposing Keep the environment in mind when disposing of mobile devices. Cell phones contain batteries, which should not be put in your trash because they will end up in landfills where they could be harmful. Many cell phones also contain heavy metals which can contaminate the earth. The EPA recommends that you check with your local health and sanitation agencies for the proper way to dispose of electronics safely.