How to make sure electronics are safe to sell, recycle

Your devices may contain your personal info

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jen Tubbering showed the 41 Action News Investigators the Surplus Exchange showroom in the West Bottoms area of Kansas City.

With various computer items and other electronics, all the devices have been donated to the non-profit recycling business from business, government and public sources.

"You don't have to buy the latest and greatest, we can provide you with a quality product," Tubbering said.

Those donations may or may not have valuable data on them when they first arrive at Surplus Exchange.

"Unless you're a technician, you really don't know how far you have to go down to really get rid of everything," Tubbering said.

According to Consumer Reports, the best way to get rid of potentially compromising personal data which could lead to identity theft is to do a factory reset.

But Consumer Reports also notes, short of destroying a hard drive or phone, it may not always be enough.

At Surplus Exchange, techs go through multiple steps, including getting rid of the operating system.

The non-profit has been recycling electronics for about 15 years.

"We've never had a data breach and we're so proud to say that," Tubbering said.

Not every donated item ends up on the Surplus Exchange showroom floor for sale.

Other items can't be fixed.

They're taken to a recycling center where they're shredded which Tubbering says is better than simply leaving them out with the garbage.

"There's hazardous materials in there that we don't want to end up in our landfill," she said.

Tubbering also says simply throwing away old electronics like phones or computers can be risky.

"If you don't provide it to someone who knows how to take that data off, it's there for anybody," she said.

Consumer Reports said Google, Apple and Microsoft have made it pretty easy to do a factory reset on their products using their operating systems.

And that step is enough in most instances.

Consumer Reports recommends taking out or destroying your hard drive if you're selling your computer to an unknown source or if there was a lot of sensitive data on it.

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