T-Mobile Sends Replacement Phone With Previous Customer Data Still On It

Mobile / Tech

Whenever I’m buying a new phone in a carrier store, there always comes that moment when the sales dude asks the question: “would you like to purchase the insurance?” I always panic. I never know if I should or not. This past February I did when purchasing my Note Edge through Verizon’s payment plan. I figured if something happened to it, I’d rather not be stuck paying for a phone that didn’t work.

My gamble paid off a couple weeks ago. While walking through the rain my Note slipped out of my hand and landed face first in a puddle. I quickly popped the battery, let it dry, etc. All that was for naught though, as the speaker was shot. Fortunately, insurance had a replacement device on my doorstep the next morning. In my case, I was able to wipe my phone before sending it off to the insurance company. But that begs the question – what if your phone quit working and you couldn’t wipe it? What happens to your data?

Tom Patterson of Rhode Island recently discovered that it’s possible to receive a phone with someone else’s data still on it. As detailed in a letter to the Haggler in the New York Times, Mr. Patterson’s T-Mobile Nexus 5 quit working. Fortunately for him, he had “Premium Handset Protection” – he took it to a TMO store where they officially declared his phone DOA.

Unfortunately for Mr. Patterson, it turns out that he was required to send his phone in to a repair center where they could verify that it wasn’t working. No advance exchange like I received. To make matters worse, it was 9 days before he received his replacement phone. Adding insult to injury, there was no SIM tray included. Mr. Patterson was forced to purchase one on Amazon, as TMO stores do not stock them.

Finally, his phone was ready to use. However he was in for a surprise. Quote Mr Patterson:

All of this was frustrating; then it got weird. When I turned on the phone, I found a cute baby staring at me from the home screen and lots of unfamiliar apps. This was clearly a refurbished phone that wasn’t wiped clean. I had access to the former owner’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as a contacts list. A woman once owned this phone, I quickly deduced. I knew where she worked, and I could view all her photos and videos.

To make a long story short, it turned out that the phone came from a TMO center that had failed to wipe the phone properly (as well as put in a SIM tray). What is most disturbing is that the phone was not reset by the repair center.

The prevailing wisdom is always to reset your phone when selling or sending in for repairs. But what if you can’t? I’d never thought about it before reading this – but if your phone isn’t working, you’re putting a lot of trust in the repair center to wipe it for you.

Have you ever used T-Mobile’s insurance replacement? Did you receive an advance replacement or did you have to send your phone in first? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

  Source: New York Times
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