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  • Writer's pictureJames Mosieur

Poor Lost and Found Disposal Methods Could Endanger Staff

It’s a fairly common practice: Many businesses and organizations give unclaimed items collected by lost and found departments to employees as incentives to turn in found items. These items range from designer clothing to jewelry to smartphones.

While a free jacket or watch from your business’s lost and found department might be a great prize to an employee, an unclaimed smartphone might cause significant problems for the person who receives it. Here’s a possible scenario:

Let’s say a housekeeper at a hotel turns in a smartphone she finds left behind in a guest room. After several weeks, the device remains unclaimed so the housekeeper is awarded the found smartphone. She gives the phone to her teenage son. Turns out the device previously belonged to a teenage girl and she used the phone to take intimate photos of herself, which are now in the boy’s possession. Not only could this be damaging to the girl’s reputation, the young man is now possibly in possession of child pornography and the consequences, should the data be found, could last a lifetime.

Situations like these aren’t unheard of: in 2015 a teenage boy in North Carolina was forced to register as a sex offender for keeping nude photos of himself and his girlfriend on his smartphone. All states have laws about possessing, sending and receiving sexual images of children, and in many states these laws apply to images teens take of themselves. A high school student sending a racy photo of herself to her boyfriend might sound commonplace enough, but it could subject both the sender and receiver to prosecution should law enforcement find the image for any reason. If the picture is shared through texting or social media, everyone who distributed the image might become liable and open to charges.

Though the hotel involved with the above scenario may not be liable for providing the phone, it could have better protected its employee and its reputation by responsibly disposing of the unclaimed device by donating it to a reputable organization like the 911 Cell Phone Bank. The 911 Cell Phone Bank takes unclaimed portable electronic devices, like the lost smartphones found at hotels, resorts, shopping malls and theme parks, and protects the previous owner’s identity and reputation by removing private and confidential data and then uses the devices as lifelines for domestic violence victims and more. To learn more about unclaimed smartphone safety and security, contact us.

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