How to avoid identity theft when giving new devices to your family for Christmas

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Social_security_cardCyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish Family Morning Show.

Christmas is a time when many families are making new investments in devices and introducing new apps.  According to Google, the top searches for Christmas gift purchases are devices and game consoles, followed by wearable gear like FitBit. The most common problem with these new gadgets is the improper disposal or redeployment of the old ones leaving your personal information vulnerable to thieves and bad actors. According to cyber safety experts, deleting files is not enough.

Protect personal data on old devices

Whether you sell them, discard them or donate them, it is important to take extra care in scrubbing the personal data out of the devices. Last week I had a conversation with Detective Jim Hudson of the Placer County Sheriff Department, and he wants parents to know that re-gifting devices is not a good idea because it is very difficult to get rid of the personal data stored in apps and in the operating system of the device itself. “You might want to consider getting professional help to make sure your data is completely removed,” he said. “Identity theft is hard to prevent once the data is out there. Law enforcement is always behind the clever ways of criminal elements.” Below are some tips to make sure that the digital footprints of your family members are not passed along when you are getting rid of old items to make room for new gifts.

Cyber Rites of Passge_wip3c _book cover(2)1. Computers and laptops. Destroy the hard drive when you donate or sell it. Even if you wipe the drive clean, there are programs to harvest the data and identity thieves look for this opportunity.

2. Tablets and Smartphones. Do not resell your phone on Craig’s list. Remove the data and sell only to those firms that have a brand reputation to protect. Companies with a reputation will be careful not to allow the personal information remaining on your device to be harvested. They will take measures to make sure it is restored like new.

3. Training young minds to be mindful about sharing personal data on new devices. Introducing new devices and apps  is a good time to review your cyber safe house rules, to make sure that your children learn how not to give up personal data that could compromise their security. For more on establishing age-appropriate boundaries for use of smart devices, see my free ebook: Cyber Rites of Passage.



Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with her Joanna Jullien, CyberMom. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with her Joanna Jullien, CyberMom. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.