Get that personal info off your old mobile device


People get rid of 30 million computers and more than 120 million cell phones each year. Before you dispose of your electronic devices, do not make the mistake of failing to erase your personal data.

What's on your personal computer? Your name, your bank account, even your credit card information. Same with your phone and recycling electronic devices without erasing that info is asking for trouble.

"You're literally giving your personal information out to the criminal world," said Larry Daniel with Guardian Digital Forensics.

The best way to protect yourself is to erase your personal data. On the iPhone, it's easy. Go to 'settings' and click on 'general.' Then press 'reset' and select 'erase all content and settings."

Consumer Reports' computer expert Dean Gallea says erasing info on Android phones is a little more complicated. Usually you go to 'settings,' and choose 'privacy.' Then you have to consult the manual online for the next steps.

To erase a personal computer, you need to download software. A good choice is from

"You download the software and put it onto a CD," said Paul Reynolds with Consumer Reports. "Then you put the CD into the computer's disc drive and follow the instructions to erase the hard drive's contents."

With Apple computers, the original operating system DVD comes with software to erase your files.

"You put it into the computer's disc drive and you reboot it, holding down the 'c' key during startup," said Reynolds.

Once the computer's booted up, choose 'utilities,' then 'disc utility.' Select 'hard drive.' Then hit 'erase.' If you think you don't have enough time to wipe your device, think again.

"Criminal enterprises live off of personal data," said Daniel. "They love a hard drive that they can get their hands on."

After you've erased your computer and cell phones, Consumer Reports says double-check everything is gone. And cell phones also come with external cards. If you don't plan to keep the card, erase it as well.

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