Tips for Securely Buying and Selling Used Phones

The business of buying and selling used electronics has always been booming – especially when it comes to smartphones. They are in high demand and the extremely high prices of the high-end flagship devices are often quite restrictive for many people. Buying the same top-shelf phones used can drop the price dramatically and make it more affordable for many. This, of course, applies to the entire spectrum of smartphones – not just the top models. There are, however, many things users and sellers alike should know of when dealing with used smartphones.

When buying used smartphones, buyers need to be aware that there are some serious security risks involved. For example, there have been numerous cases reported in which a used smartphone was re-purposed into a spying device and even ebay warns of this. The device is loaded with malware and sold off online. There are multiple ways this can be abused for malicious purposes, including stealing banking and other important credentials (nowadays, smartphones are frequently used for online banking), secretly sending text messages to premium numbers owned by the attackers, or outright signing up for premium paid services.

To lower the chances of this happening to you, an essential step to take right after receiving the used cell phone is to perform a factory reset. This step is crucial. By performing a factory reset, the entire phone should return to its original state as it were on the day it was manufactured. Do not forget to erase the internal storage as well – not to mention to remove the micro SD card. The steps for running a factory reset differ for various devices, but for most Android devices, it is located under the backup & reset section in options. For other devices, simply Google the device name and add “factory reset” and follow the instructions.

On the other hand, say you bought a new phone and would like to pass on your old phone to someone that can find some use for it. In this case, you absolutely need to make sure you completely erase everything on the phone. Although it sounds trivial, it happened to me in the past that I purchased a phone online only to find out that the user was still logged in to their account. Were I someone else, with malicious intent, and I could have checked the browsing history, see if any banks were accessed, try to reset the password – since I have access to the email account, it might just work.

What lesson have we learned? ALWAYS make sure you factory erase the phone. Whether you are selling or buying, even if you think you have no valuable info on there. If you are not sure how to do it, call the manufacturer or you carrier, or you can even leave a comment below and I will do what I can to help you. Share this with others so they don’t unknowingly expose themselves to risk.