Skip to main content

This gross story shows why you absolutely have to erase your iPhone before trading it in

Nearly a year after Ontario teen Natalie Hall sold her shattered iPhone 5 at a TBooth mall kiosk, an individual in Dubai contacted her notifying her that he had possession of her old phone — and, as a result, all of her data as well.

According to a report by CBC News:

... a man messaged the 15-year-old on Facebook, saying he had bought her used phone in Dubai and the device still had all of her data on it. To prove it, he sent Hall a screengrab of her old phone's camera roll, commenting on the "sweet" photos of the teen, her friends and her dog."I was overwhelmed," said Hall, who is from Bowmanville, Ont. "It's creepy having your pictures and your contacts and your social media, text messages — all of that kind of stuff — out there with just a random stranger."

The man also used the data on Hall's phone to gain access to her private social media accounts, requesting her as a friend and then accepting his own requests from the inside.

According to Hall, her phone was so damaged that it was no longer operational, leading her to believe that even if she could accomplish a factory reset before trading it in, it was unnecessary.

Hall said she assumed her old phone had been recycled."It was so broken — to the point where the guy I sold it to couldn't even use it himself," Hall said. "For people to say that it's common sense to wipe your phone, I don't know if your phone is that broken."

Since the incident, Hall has taken steps to protect herself, blocking the man from all social media accounts and resetting her passwords. CBC also reached out to the man, who apologized for his conduct and claimed that he has now wiped the phone and sold it. However, the story stands as yet another warning to be certain that you've wiped your data completely before selling or trading in your device. As CBC's piece states, many companies who buy back used iPhones ask that you reset the device yourself, as they cannot assure that any data you leave on the device will be deleted.

If you're preparing to sell your old iPhone and would like to make sure you've taken all the necessary steps to secure your information, you can check out our guide and Apple's, below.

Has anything similar ever happened to you after selling an old device? Share with us in the comments!

Tory Foulk is a writer at Mobile Nations. She lives at the intersection of technology and sorcery and enjoys radio, bees, and houses in small towns. When she isn't working on articles, you'll likely find her listening to her favorite podcasts in a carefully curated blanket nest. You can follow her on Twitter at @tsfoulk.

6 Comments
  • How is that even possible. She wasn't able to lock, wipe the old phone remotely?
  • In theory, if enough of the phone was replaced, *AND* it wasn't connected to the internet after being fixed, this could happen. Remote lock wouldn't activate unless it was put online.
  • File this under “Duh!”
  • How do you wipe a non-operational phone though?
  • You don't. You shred your old tech if it's in this condition. $11 is a stupid reason to trade in a phone, didn't even buy a new case I'm sure. The real truth is 90%+ of cellular users have ZERO understanding of technology and how it works. Teenagers know how to use it but not how it works, they also seem oblivious to that fact. If you haven't personally wiped your own data, do not do anything with your phone, pull out the motherboard and torch it. That is the only real way to prevent this kind of thing. (Destruction methodology may vary ;)) Be smart and most importantly, DON'T BE LAZY ABOUT INFORMATION SECURITY! People get hacked when they get lazy. Aldo don't be ignorant, if you're going to tote around a mini computer/homing beacon, learn a little bit about the hardware/software. You don't need to become a computer engineer but a little knowledge can go a long way in the fight for personal information security. The bad guys are smart, be smart too!
  • Story time. When I did Apple Care support, had a customer call in about this. Said he traded his phone to a "carrier" store. Lets call that carrier store Red. Red's employee bought the phone off of the guy. Few weeks later, the guy is contacted by Red's employee saying "What's your iCloud, I need to reset this phone", my customer said "Heck no!*" (I told him he could've removed the lock from his side on the call, but the Red employee should've told him to do that). While on the phone with me, the customer got emails saying his iCloud password was reset because he didn't have a passcode on the phone. Can't excuse him not erasing it there, but I can excuse the girl for not doing it because it should've been used for parts, although I don't think trading it in for $11 is worth it because of data. *I can't say the other word that ends with two L's?