Thinking about selling your old smartphone in preparation for an upgrade? It may seem easy enough to pull out the SIM card and hand it over to the next owner, but it isn’t that simple.
You access personal information on your phone on a near-constant basis. Before passing that phone on to its next owner, make sure that you won’t be part of the 33 percent of Americans hacked each year by securing your data—all of it. It’s not too difficult, and you can do it in 4 steps. Here’s what you need to do before you sell your old phone:
Wait, who sells a phone and gives away their phone service with it? You’d be surprised. It’s an easy step to forget, and it causes a lot of problems. In addition to making it impossible for your buyer to activate the phone, the phone’s new buyer may be able to access your personal details through the carrier’s default account management app.
Most of the time you can do this through your online carrier account. If not, call your carrier’s customer service and inquire about the steps needed to remove service for that phone.
Note that if you’re keeping the phone number and transferring it to a new phone, you can simply remove the SIM card and the phone number goes with it. There’s no need to call to deactivate service in this situation.
You probably have photos, video, contacts, and other data on your old phone that you want to keep. Luckily, the process is extra simple and takes just a few minutes from a Windows computer.
That’s it! If you prefer, you can transfer to a cloud service such as Dropbox or an external drive instead of your computer’s hard drive. It’s all up to you.
Your SIM card carries your carrier information, while the microSD card stores data and multimedia (or whatever else you’ve chosen to store on it). Sometimes private information such as text messages and call logs find their way onto microSD cards, so it’s extra important to remove them before you sell your old phone.
Last but not least, remove the data on your phone, and then encrypt or format it so your data can’t be recovered. This restores your phone to factory settings, straight out of the box, so none of your information remains.
If your phone is an Android, go to Settings > Backup & Reset > Factory Data Reset and enter your passcode, PIN, or fingerprint. Make sure your phone is plugged in, because this takes intensive battery usage and your phone can end up unusable (and unsellable) if it powers off during the process.
At the end of the process, which can take an hour or so, your phone restarts itself and powers back on. Now, go to Settings > Security > Encrypt Phone, making sure that you’re still plugged in.
This formats over everything, so your past data can’t be recovered. If you want to be extra safe, you can perform this step before factory resetting your phone, too.
This may seem like a lot of work just to prep your smartphone for sale, but it’s worth it to make sure that your data is safe before you sell your old phone. These four simple steps ensure that your data is backed up for your private access, and that your phone is completely wiped and formatted so that no traces of your usage remain.