Why you should wipe laptops clean of personal information before selling

What not to do before selling your old PC
Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-11 17:07:31-04

We hit up Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace in search of used laptops.

We met sellers in fast food parking lots across Pinellas County. In some cases, the owners sold the devices for as little as $10 dollars, just for parts.

But in all six units, Pinellas Computers Chief Technology Officer Ryan Malize found the hard drives intact. That is where all of the information lives and in some cases, Malize was able to access passwords to bank accounts and email in 45 seconds.

We found personal information on three of the computers. On the HP, we paid $22 and dug up phone numbers, email accounts, partial social security numbers on several children, and even passwords to their BB&T bank account.

Malize explained the old HP was probably worth thousands to the right buyer.

With all the information we found, the seller was easy to track down. We showed her 13 pages of printed data she had no idea was left on the laptop.

We first met Jason at a Starbucks in St. Pete. Using the data we found on the $60 Dell, we found his address and showed up on his front porch. 

Jason was not happy to hear we found passwords to a number of accounts, even a bank account that was saved on his hard drive.

Jason said he never thought someone might harvest his old Dell for personal information. Another man we met in a motel parking lot paid $30 for his Toshiba.

Ryan quickly located a backup of all the data that was likely on his iPhone.

We paid a total of $112 dollars for the 3 laptops that contained all of this personal information, all of which Pinellas Computers deleted.

Professionals like Pinellas Computers will wipe a hard drive for you for about $30.

Here’s a link to everything you need to know before parting with any used devices that might leave you vulnerable to ID theft.