Man’s personal information left on returned tablet for months

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BURLINGTON, N.C. — A Burlington man who returned a tablet to a Best Buy this summer just learned from a stranger in Oklahoma that his personal information was still on the device.

Jason Ham received an email this week from Michael, who did not want to be identified by his last name and spoke with FOX8 by phone.

Michael had purchased a refurbished Motorola Zoom tablet from popular deal site woot.com. Michael sent Ham an email after turning on the device and seeing Ham’s personal information still on it.

“All his family pictures, his email, and it was logged into his Facebook account,” Michael said.

Ham said the Geek Squad reassured him when he returned the tablet that they would wipe all the data on the device. Ham said the store manager said the same thing when he called this week.

“He assured me that nothing like this could happen at all. They have a four-stage process in how they handle this to delete everything and make sure this doesn’t happen. But it did,” Ham said.

Since Ham didn’t really know where the tablet could have been over the past few months, he changed all his passwords, bank account numbers and credit card numbers.

“I had to change everything. My whole life was on there. Imagine, if in the wrong hands, what somebody could do with that,” Ham said.

Ham called Best Buy’s corporate offices on Monday. He said they told him they were investigating it.

However, Michael said Best Buy has been contacting him a lot lately.

“They wanted me to return to that store, and they would give me a replacement product,” Michael said.

That replacement product, Michael said, was a new tablet, and they also wanted to mail a $200 gift card after they got the original tablet back.

Michael said he is not going to give the tablet back, and he is working to get it back to Ham, who now has an attorney.

A spokeswoman for Best Buy said she had no comment on either the data erasure or deal sweetening allegations.

“I know it’s not necessarily company policy to admit fault and make apologies, but there’s still something they could have done than just dismissing his concern and then trying to call me and try and get the device back,” Michael said.

While Ham is upset with Best Buy, he said he mainly came forward to try to prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

“Every day people bring back laptops, CPUs and cell phones and tablets, and we trust these companies to delete this information,” Ham said.

Here are some tips to wipe devices yourself. Take the SIM card out of a cell phone, and you can use readily available software to clean hard drives of old personal computers. You can also enlist the help of a trusted professional.

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