Deleted Cell Phone Text Messages, Photos, Videos Easy for Thieves to Steal

"I'd break it in half" to prevent identity theft, expert says of discarded cell phones.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A computer forensics expert says it's easy to recover deleted text messages, photos, videos and more from discarded phones, making their former users vulnerable to thieves.

    The most embarrassing or sensitive text messages and photos that ever crossed one of your discarded cell phones - even the ones you deleted - could be in someone else's hands, a computer forensics expert said.

    "I don't know if there is such a thing as a totally secure phone," said Patrick Paige, a former computer forensics detective who cofounded of Computer Forensics LLC.

    Extraction devices that can recover even deleted data can be bought online, some for as little as $8. Beyond the invasion of privacy, the data can be especially useful for identity thieves.

    A reporter purchased several used cell phones from a thrift store and gave them to Paige for analysis. Within minutes, he found photos, names, phone numbers, text messages and videos.

    "This person's identity, I could probably steal pretty easily," he said.

    So what should people do with their old cell phones to ensure their privacy?

    "I'd break it in half," he said. "Yeah, that's what I would do. Snap it in half."

    If that seems too extreme, he recommended performing a factory reset that wipes most information from many phones, removing passwords from apps and removing the memory card before getting rid of your phone.

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