Home > Identity Theft and Scams > When Regifting Puts Your Identity at Risk

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Whether or not you think regifting is an acceptable practice, plenty of people do it, but there are some risks involved. There’s the obvious awkwardness of regifting to someone who frowns upon the practice, but you could be facing damage beyond your social life — for example, identity theft.

Electronics are among commonly regifted items, particularly within families. It can be a great way to recycle and give someone a fancy gadget without dropping a lot of money: If you received a new tablet as a holiday gift, you might want to give your old one to your friend who has expressed interest in having one. If you just upgraded your smartphone to the latest release, there’s probably someone you know who might like the model you just retired.

Such gestures can be incredibly generous, especially considering the great resale marketplace that exists online. If you’re not careful, though, you may be putting your personally identifiable information (PII) in the hands of someone who shouldn’t have it.

What to Do Before You Pass Something Along

“If you’re going to regift any electronic device, make sure it’s wiped clean,” said Adam Levin, identity theft expert, and chairman and co-founder of Credit.com. “There’s no way I would provide my device to anyone, whether I knew them or not, unless I was absolutely sure it was wiped clean.”

He’s not saying your brother is going to steal your identity using information from a computer you regifted to him — though family members are frequent identity theft offenders — but what if he loses it? By giving someone a device that may not be clear of your information, you’re putting your identity in their hands. That’s a much more complicated exchange than handing someone your old iPad. To wipe your electronics, see if there’s an option for a factory reset in the settings, or use reputable software for wiping your hard drive. If you have questions about erasing data from your devices, you may want to contact the manufacturer.

The issue goes beyond electronics. Say you just got a new coat or received a new bag as a holiday gift — before you pass along your gently used (but now replaced) goods, inspect them thoroughly. This is especially important as you make end-of-year charitable donations. You don’t want to give someone a credit card by accident.

“You have to treat your personally identifiable information like it s the Hope Diamond, because there is no end of the havoc someone can wreak with your PII,” Levin said.

In short: Don’t regift without first conducting a serious cleanup session. Even if you don’t plan on giving away any of your possessions this holiday season, it’s still prime time for identity thieves. Be sure to closely look at your credit and debit card activity, and keep an eye on your credit by getting your free credit report summary from Credit.com.

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