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Returning gadgets could lead to identity theft

Don't Waste Your Money

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With the dawn of 2014, many consumers are returning laptops, tablets or other gadgets purchased over the holidays.

But before you put your tech back in its box, there are warnings you need to know because your money and identity could be at stake.

Matt Wahlert recently returned a laptop because it had a bad hard drive. He thought the transaction went well until he learned someone bought his laptop refurbished – and it still contained all of his personal information and tax forms.

Something similar happened to Sean Morath last Christmas when he returned an iPad to Best Buy and then received a strange email.

"A friend…bought a new iPad, and when he opened it up, it said, ‘Hello Sean Morath.’ And I said, ‘Huh?’"

Morath said his used iPad was resold without his name and credit card info removed.

Best Buy representatives said stores are supposed to erase and reset all returned electronics.

In a statement, the company said, "We are sorry to hear about this incident...we will take the appropriate action to rectify this situation."

To avoid this risk, before returning something, go to your gadget's settings and look for an “erase” or “restore” button.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to erasing an Apple product.

Click here for a step-by-step guide to erasing an Android product.

Another option: Have a store employee erase your device as you watch.

"Either find someone you know who knows how to clear them out, or demand it gets erased in front of you before you leave the store," Morath said.

One More Option

Finally, our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine say you can download a free third party program called D-BAN.org, if your PC does not include a reset feature.

While the D-BAN site looks a bit scary, Consumer Reports says it is safe.

That way, you stay safe in 2014 and you don’t waste your money.Bottom line: If your gadget might have personal information on it -- like a credit card number or your name and address -- make sure it’s erased before you return it.

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