Consumer Advocate

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > January 2016 > New mobile device? Here are two ways to protect your identity

Consumer Advocate RSS feeds

New mobile device? Here are two ways to protect your identity

Did you receive a new mobile device such as a laptop computer, tablet, or smartphone for the holidays? If so, chances are you’ve probably rushed to learn about all the newest features and even set up your favorite apps. But have you considered what to do in case your device is ever lost or stolen, or what to do with your old device?

You never know when unexpected events may separate you from your technology, so it’s important to have a plan in place. Here are two cybersecurity tips to help you protect your personal information.

1. Look into a locator app for your new device.
Consider downloading a “locator app” from your device’s manufacturer or another trusted source. As with other apps, check online consumer and expert reviews or consult with friends or local information technology professionals to help in the selection process. Locator apps can trace a device in case it is lost or stolen. Some locator apps include features to remotely lock the device and/or wipe out all the information on the device to protect your privacy.

2. Clear old devices completely before discarding.
While you would never choose to lose your device, there are times when you might want to resell, recycle, donate, or otherwise dispose of your device. Before giving up control of your device, be sure to wipe clean the hard drive and any other storage devices (including USB thumb drives, memory sticks, memory cards, and – for some cell phones and smartphones – SIM cards).  
Often, merely deleting files as you typically would if you no longer need them is not enough to render the data unrecoverable. Even throwing documents in the virtual “trash” and emptying that trash may still allow data to be recovered. This means an identity thief may be able to recover the data.

Some devices have a factory reset option (also called a “hard reset”) that may wipe it clean. You also should be certain to delete any apps stored on the device, especially if you’ve chosen to save passwords on the apps.

If you need help or if you’re unsure that all personal information has been completely removed, take the device to a trusted source, such as a local electronics store, and have the device wiped clean. Other resources to consult may include the device’s manufacturer or your Internet or cell phone service provider.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides cybersecurity education to consumers throughout the state. To learn more, to schedule a cybersecurity presentation, or to report a scam or unfair business practice, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by visiting or call 800-282-0515.