For some households, the Hanukkah or Christmas season doesn't “officially” end until they visit the thrift store to donate various old things they no longer need because they got newer, better versions as holiday presents. Other households do the exact opposite, and kick off the holiday season by unloading things they already have to make room for gifts to come.
But when you're giving things away (or selling them, for that matter), you must take a few precautions to ensure you don't give away more than you intended.
Old electronics? Wipe them clean
When you've giving away your old computer, smartphone, or any other data-recording communications device, of course you don't want to also give away all the (often-confidential) documents, photos and other data you have there.
Having the device wiped clean or getting a factory reset is supposed to ensure your files are safely deleted — but last summer, experimenting security researchers were able to successfully retrieve data from some Android phones which had supposedly been wiped clean.
So if you want to be double-extra certain your old data is gone, your best bet is to not merely delete or wipe your old files, but then overwrite the memory space with new data — innocuous or even meaningless files and photos.
Donating furniture? Check behind the cushions and drawers
Last month, a Massachusetts man made headlines after he bought an old desk at an auction for $40, and found $125,000 worth of bonds in one of the drawers.
Ironically, the family who originally owned the desk and the bonds within sold the desk at auction because they needed money (and thought the bonds had been lost). Fortunately for them, the buyer took the trouble to track them down and return the bonds. But not everyone would have been that honest.
If you're giving away old furniture, remember: don't just look inside any drawers, look behind and beneath them — not just for money and potential valuables, but also for any bank or credit card receipts, and other things which an identity thief might be able to use against you. And make sure you look behind the cushions and between the upholstery, too.
Even if you don't have a forgotten fortune in bonds there, you might have some paper money — or a credit card statement, bank deposit receipt, or other documents containing information which an identity thief might find useful.
Check the pockets
Don't give away any coats or clothes without first checking every pocket to make sure nothing important or valuable is in there.
Empty those purses, wallets and backpacks
Before discarding an old purse, backpack or similar item you should not merely empty it, but turn the entire thing inside out, because it's very easy for small items or pieces of paper to get stuck in the lining-folds of what appears to be a completely empty purse or bag.
Riffle through the books
When you're giving away any of your old books, riffle through their pages first to make sure nothing falls out.