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Posted on June 3, 2015 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

While idling at a red light recently, I glanced over at the car next to me and saw two young boys in the backseat, each watching a different movie on his tablet.

It made me wonder: Did either of these kids use a password to unlock his device? Are those tablets hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings who got the newest versions? And if that’s the case, was all the sensitive information wiped from each tablet first?

Maybe that seems like a lot of questions to fit in during a quick stop at a traffic light. When it comes to preventing identity theft, however, these are the kinds of questions that need to be asked.

Today it’s commonplace for iPads and other tablets to be used by several family members, or “passed along,” after a technology upgrade. But just like smartphones and laptops, these devices may contain a wealth of data that could put your identity at risk.

When considering ways to prevent identity theft, you should definitely put tablet protections in place. Here are some tips for staying safe:

  • Wipe the device: If you’re sending a tablet on to a new owner — especially a pint-sized member of your household — first back up your data and then delete anything personal that remains. This can include photos and identifying information.
  • Deauthorize all accounts: When you think about how you use your iPad, keep in mind all of the automatic shopping shortcuts you’ve put in place. Maybe you make purchases from the iTunes Store or have Amazon One-Click enabled. Be sure to deauthorize the computer on iTunes (which you can do through the Store menu) and log out of all online shopping apps.
  • Clear your browsers: Speedy Web browsing is made possible because pages are cached, which means they’re saved in your history so they can load faster if you visit them again. But some of these pages contain sensitive information, like passwords. Before handing over a tablet, completely clear your browser’s cache, cookies and history.
  • Review your apps: Tablet users tend to have an array of apps, from movie review services to meditation timers to time-killing games. Consider the kind of data used by these apps and delete whatever seems to be inappropriate for someone else to access. For example, you might have a money management app that tracks your spending or a scheduling app that synchs with your laptop. These types of details are often used by identity thieves, so ditch them before handing over an old tablet.
  • Password protect the device: Even if the device is totally free of personal information, it’s still a good idea to have the new owner employ a password lock. Tablets and smartphones are particularly alluring to thieves, and password protection can help keep your information safe in case the device is stolen or lost. If you’re passing the tablet on to a kid, work together to come up with a letter-and-number combination that’s easy for the child to remember, but hard for others to guess.

Although getting the latest-and-greatest iPads and other tablets is part of the thrill of keeping up with technology, make sure you think about ways to prevent identity theft with every new purchase.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Martin Abegglen.