Don't recycle computers and cell phones without removing persona - WFLA News Channel 8

Don't recycle computers and cell phones without removing personal data

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Some of the old electronic devices dropped off Thursday at the household electronics and chemical collections center. Some of the old electronic devices dropped off Thursday at the household electronics and chemical collections center.
When disposing of old computers it is wise to remove all personal information. When disposing of old computers it is wise to remove all personal information.
Old cell phones can lead identity thieves to all kids of useful information. Old cell phones can lead identity thieves to all kids of useful information.
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) - Christmas is a wonderful thing with it comes to all of those new computers, tablets, smart phones under the tree. But properly disposing of old electronics takes a little work.

Take computers for example. Simply deleting personal document folders, prior to donation or disposal isn't nearly enough. Erasing a hard drive requires special software you can down free from the Internet to "wipe" your computer of any data that might come back to haunt you.

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Some consumers don't even trust that. "I would always drill bit it to death to make sure no one could ever recover any of the data on it,"said  Ed Miller.  Anything that's on a hard drive is always on a hard drive so the best thing is to physically destroy it.
 
Smart phones are a bit easier to sanitize because most of them come with reset functions built into the settings menu. Just follow the prompts to reset your phone to the original factory setting and delete all photos, contacts, passwords and other personal data.

The process takes only a few seconds and Michael  Winn, a Verizon wireless expert, says it is well worth the effort.

"You can have almost your entire life on your phone,"said Winn. He frequently wipes data from used smart phones that trusting or naive customers trade in for new ones without bothering to do it themselves.

Most counties have recycling centers that will sanitize personal electronic devices for you, if you wish. That's how it works at the Pinellas County Household Electronics and Chemical Collection Center

Six days a week (6am-6pm weekdays and 7am-6pm Saturday) consumers can unload carloads of used electronics at Pinellas County's drive through facility located at 2855 109th Ave N. near the Resource Recovery plant.

The service is free for consumers, businesses have to pay a fee. Either way, the county contracts with outside experts to make sure personal information on recycled computers and cell phones doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

"They are responsible by contract to take care of it and to be sure that none of the information is used for something else," said Pinellas County Program Manager Jan Tracy.

Regardless of what precautions consumers take to protect their personal information on discarded electronics, it's never OK  to toss them in the trash.  Anything with a digital display, circuit board or rechargeable battery is hazardous waste.
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