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  • Writer's pictureLani Byrd

The 5 Most Common Storage Disposal Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

Updated: Apr 29

Do you recall a time when 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 storage disposal protocol in place.

graphic titled "The 5 Most Common Lost & Found Disposal Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)"

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

thermometer bursting that says "How organized are you?" and gives the option of In control? Not bad? Hmmmm? A mess?

#1- You’re not organized

Does your storage room look 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 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…

three red dice that say: Manage Your Risk

#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 of our contacts, addresses, texts, photos, emails, credit card information, and often our account passwords. When these devices are misplaced, all of this information is at risk. Technology and identity theft are on the rise. For the integrity of your company/agency and for the privacy of the original owner, don’t take a chance with devices that are left on your property. Lock them up for safe storage!

white teddy bear holding a tag that says, "Lost Property"

#3- You are not confirming the rightful owner

Scenario: a guest contacts your company/agency because they lost their silver iPhone. You check your storage room 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 the contacts on the device to confirm their identity?

BOUNTE lost and found software program on a cell phone with a shipping package with BOUNTE logo

#4- You're not using a state-of-the art software program

There are plenty of cost-effective software programs available that match the owner with their lost item. One program that we highly recommend is BOUNTE™. BOUNTE is a cloud-based platform that delivers a convenient, fast, and reliable method for returning lost items. BOUNTE's smartphone app uses AI image recognition to identify and log items, while an integrated shipping wizard handles the return process and labeling.


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

Are you using one of the following methods to dispose of unclaimed devices? Please note how these can put your company/agency and the privacy of the original owner at risk.

blue background vector image of a hand holding a heart, reaching across the screen. The word "Charity" is listed below it.

Local charity: It is desirable to support local charities when you can. However, most local charities that accept electronic devices as donations sell these 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/agency and the personal data of your customers.

image of a laptop being smashed by a hammer, with parts shattering in pieces

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. Perhaps you think that a factory reset will do the trick? Here is 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.


hand of a boss gifting a cell phone to an employee. The phone has red ribbon and bow around it.

Gift devices to employees: It is nice to reward those who follow company policy and turn items into 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 also violate the privacy of the original owner if it ends up in someone else’s possession.

a wooden gavel in the foreground with a blurred sign that says "Online Auction" in the background

Sell the unclaimed items at auction: Selling devices may seem tempting. But be aware that most brick-and-mortar and online companies who buy or sell unclaimed devices DO NOT guarantee erasure of user data. If you elect to sell devices through an auction site, make sure that the company you choose GUARANTEES the complete erasure of data. Read all terms and conditions carefully, especially the small print. It is common for auctions to use terms such as “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 most secure way to dispose of unclaimed devices?

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


911 Cell Phone Bank logo with the website address and blurb that says, "saving lives, one electronic device at a time."

In 2014, the 911CPB, a 501c3 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. Donation receipt documentation + online tracking is provided. You also may qualify for an IRS tax deduction up to twice the value of the donated products. Donated phones are repurposed as emergency devices to assist victims of human trafficking and domestic violence. Visit for more information or click below to donate unclaimed devices today!

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