top of page
  • Writer's pictureLani Byrd


Do you recall a time that you lost your cell phone, wallet, or another sensitive item? How did it make you feel? Frustrated? Angry? Helpless? Vulnerable? Now transfer that feeling into your customer’s guest experience and you will quickly understand why it is important to have a structured and secure lost-and-found protocol in place.

Let’s discuss five common storage mistakes that are made in the lost-and-found arena. We will focus specifically on sensitive and personal items such as wallets, cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices.

#1- You’re not organized:

Your lost-and-found room looks like a busted can of biscuits! Items are randomly stored in an open box in someone’s office or shoved onto a shelf in a back room. Take some time to create a designated and organized lost-and-found space. It is imperative that you safely store and lock up sensitive items such as cell phones, wallets, credit cards, tablets, laptops, etc. Why is this so important? Keep reading…

#2- You haven’t considered the liability that comes with storing electronic devices:

Our lives are very much interwoven with our electronic devices these days — all our contacts, addresses, texts, photos, emails, credit card information, and often our account passwords. When these devices are lost, all of this information is at risk. Technology and identity theft are on the rise. For the integrity of your company and the privacy of your guests, don’t take a chance with devices that are left on your property. Lock them up for safe storage!

#3- You are not confirming the rightful owner:

A customer contacts your company because they lost their lost silver iPhone. You check your lost-and-found room and lo-and-behold, there sits a lone silver iPhone! You are their hero! Or are you? Be sure to ask questions to match up the item with its rightful owner. Can they provide the IMEI number on their electronic device? Are there any unique markings such as scratches, chips, phone case color/design, etc. that would positively identify the item? If you can turn the device on, can the owner identify what is on the home screen? If there are no lock codes turned on, can you search contacts to confirm their identity?

#4- You aren’t using a lost-found software program:

There are oodles of cost-effective software programs available that match the owner with their lost item. A simple internet search can connect you with a service that will best fit your needs. But what if the owner never claims their lost item? What is the safest and most liability-free way to dispose of data-sensitive items?

#5- You’re using the wrong disposal method:

How can you dispose of these sensitive items? Let us count the ways! But beware - most of these methods are not secure and can put your company at risk.

Local charity: It is desirable to support local charities when you can. However, most local charities that accept electronic devices as donations sell those devices to a third party and never turn them on, let alone delete the data stored on them. You are relying on an organization that you have no agreement with to protect your company and the personal data of your customers.

Factory-reset and/or smash the devices: Perhaps you prefer to smash unclaimed devices, thinking that these are now safely destroyed. Truth-bomb #1: a smashed device does not delete sensitive data. Or maybe you think that a factory reset will do the trick. Truth-bomb #2: a factory reset does not always delete private data, nor will it prevent a potential data breach. Watch this two-minute video to see how a factory reset does not always safely clear a device.

Gift devices to employees: It is nice to reward those that follow policy and turn items in to lost-and-found. However, electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, etc., contain personal and confidential information that can not only cause potential liability to your company, but it also violates the privacy of the original owner if it ends up in someone else’s possession.

Sell the unclaimed items at auction: Selling devices may seem tempting. But take note that most companies, both brick-and-mortar and online, who buy or sell unclaimed devices DO NOT guarantee the erasure of user data. If you elect to sell devices through an auction site, make sure the company you choose GUARANTEES the complete erasure of data. Read all terms and conditions carefully. It is common for auctions to use terms like “Certified Data Erasure” or “Secure Data Destruction”, but they employ processes that DO NOT ensure complete data erasure. Some even say so in their user agreement – terminology such as: “we assume no liability” or “we do not guarantee we will erase all data on devices”. 

What is the safest way to dispose of unclaimed devices?

It is critical to choose a guaranteed secure data-erasure and disposal method for the devices left behind in lost-and-found. Organizations such as the 911 Cell Phone Bank (911CPB) offer a 100% free service to securely recycle these items. 

In 2014, the 911CPB, a 501(c)(3) organization, created the DATA-SECURE program to help lost-and-found and property-and-evidence departments safely and securely dispose of the electronic devices in their possession. By utilizing third-party verification software, the 911CPB guarantees complete data erasure of all electronic devices according to the DOD NIST 800-88 Rev. 1 guidelines. Erasure is compliant with all data privacy regulations and guidelines including ISO 27001 and ISO 27040.

The program is 100% free, including shipping costs, is tax-deductible, and guaranteed secure. Donated phones are repurposed as emergency devices for vulnerable victims of abuse to contact 911 in an emergency. Visit for more information or to donate unclaimed devices today!

160 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page