It is safe to say the majority of the United States population has a cell phone or has had one in the past. As technology continues to improve, there are new phones coming out every year.  However, the question becomes what do you do with the old ones.

When it comes to phone disposal, a common method is recycling and reselling. However, there are many risks that people are not aware of.

The Risks of Cell Phone Factory Resets

What Are the Risks

With old cell phones, it stores a lot of personal information on it. This makes it a gold mine for identity thieves and hackers. Improper handling of cell phones comes with a number of exposure risks, including:

Bank Details and Social Security Numbers

Many people have private information on their phone, including social security numbers, credit card numbers, and more. By not destroying the cell phone, this information can be recovered and stolen.

SMS Messages and Emails

SMS and email messages can expose potential private information. While it may be difficult to recover deleted data, patient hackers can discover the information with time.

Location Sensors and Geo-positioning

This information may seem harmless, but in the wrong hands, a hacker can find certain locations. This might include your home address as well as other common stomping grounds.

Pictures and Videos

If you have a smart phone, chances are high you have a photo or two on there. This can be confidential photos or just family photos.

Either way, you do not want these hanging around for someone else. Additionally, deleting the photos and videos is only a surface level deletion. Because of this, the photos and videos are still recoverable.

Myths Behind Using Factory Resets for Cell Phone Disposal

Many people are unaware of certain truths behind cell phone disposal and factory resets. These myths include:

Recycled Means It’s Gone

The Risks of Cell Phone Factory Resets

This simply isn’t true. In the traditional sense, recycling means it is being broken down and safely disposed of. However, recycling companies often wipe and resell to other individuals.

Recycling the phone doesn’t ensure the data is destroyed and unrecoverable. Additionally, there is the potential someone could be walking around with your data with a recycled phone.

Data is Gone Forever

When there is a factory reset, the information is thought to be gone forever, but this isn’t true. The data is still recoverable in the future.

The right hackers or software can still recover the data on the device. The factory reset only wipes the information from the surface. To keep information secure, proper cell phone disposal is critical.

How to Dispose of Cell Phones Securely

There are a couple of different methods to destroy old phones, including shredding, Demanufacturing/Degaussing, and the DIY method.


Shredding is the easiest and cheapest method. It doesn’t require manual data wiping, separation of components, and most shredders also take care of electronics recycling afterward.


Demanufacturing/degaussing is a slower process because it requires phones to be manually dismantled piece by piece. Additionally, trained specialist are required for this process which increases overall costs.

The Risks of Cell Phone Factory ResetsDIY Destruction

The fastest approach is smashing or destroying by yourself. However, EPA hazardous waste laws prohibit throwing the pieces in the trash—instead recycling (and potential cost) is on you.

Given the options, there are a few methods for disposal. However, shredding is the most cost-efficient and secure methods of destroying cell data.

Do You Have Cell Phones to Get Rid of? We Can Help

Shred Nations partners with secure electronic shredding service providers across North America. We can help you find a destruction solution to protect the information stored on your mobile device.

To start the process, fill out the form to the right, use the live chat option, or give us a call at (800) 747-3365. Afterwards, you’ll receive a free, non-obligatory quote from providers near you.