Culture Best Buy forgets to wipe data once again before selling open box devices

Gabe Carey

Posts: 51   +0

Remember, kids, always wipe your devices of all personal data before trading them in or returning them to a retailer. Some Best Buy customers are learning this the hard way after the consumer electronics retail chain failed to reset returned devices before reselling them as open box items.

The most recent incident happened in Mission Viejo, California where a man named Michael Urban bought an open box Apple TV, only to find the device was still logged in to multiple services including Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, and HBO Now.

While Urban did the right thing by restoring the device to its manufacturer settings, he condemned Best Buy's security practices: "Although one could say the original owner should have known better and reset the unit before returning it, many/most people are probably clueless in this area. So if the retailer accepts the return and resells the item, it's their responsibility to return it to factory defaults."

Best Buy told Ars Technica that its many locations wipe "thousands of devices and return them to factory settings" every year. In situations where this doesn't happen, Best Buy says it conflicts with the values of the company and how it expects to approach customer data.

A similar incident took place last month in which Ars Technica contributor John Ferguson reportedly purchased a computer from Best Buy and was still able to log in to the previous owner's account.

"It was in the box the entire time," Ferguson wrote. "Not only did they sell me a computer with someone else's data still on it, they gave me the password as well. No hacking required." The password was included with the computer on a piece of paper that the previous owner had written their password on.

And there are several more stories like that. A Best Buy customer forum reveals that, in June of this year, a similar incident was reported. The user claimed to have bought an open box 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro and ensured that the fine print promised a like-new device restored to its factory settings.

It was a gift for her sister, but when upon receiving the product, it was overheating from being powered on inside the box. When the notebook was opened, she was prompted to log in to the account belonging to a person named "Steve H". No one had made sure the computer had been refreshed before making the sale. No one had checked to see if it could be accessed.

Following an apology, an employee then proceeded to tell the customer that it would take an entire five days to fix the problem. He was eventually able to convince the Best Buy to replace it with a new one.

But perhaps not all stories have the same happy ending; leaving your data open to strangers could lead to more unfortunate consequences. Our advice stands: always remember to wipe your devices before trading them in -- especially so, if you're trading in at Best Buy, it seems.

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Seventh Reign

Posts: 131   +65
The Individuals who traded the devices in are are just as, if not more guilty than Best Buy. Its 2015, there is absolutely NO excuse for not clearing your device. N.O.N.E.

If you dont, then you deserve whatever happens.
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Posts: 1,991   +785
This falls into the responsibility of both the retailer and the customer returning the device. The retailer should inquire with the customer returning the device as to the state of the data on the device. If the customer is unsure, which most people are, have your "geek squad" perform the require action to wipe the device, it's not complicated, especially for best buy which is an electronics retailer, they really should know better. However manufacturers could also include a warning in the box that outlines a simple procedure to restore the device to default settings if the device ever needed to be returned. There are solutions available, it's just implementation which takes too long.


Posts: 690   +610
TechSpot Elite
I can understand the viewpoint of the original owner being responsible for the data on the device - but that's wrong and irrelevant.

If Best Buy has in their terms that the device would be factory resetted, then it's completely on Best Buy to ensure that happens. Not the ***** that didn't think things through before selling or trading the device in. End of story. Doesn't matter what the previous consumer does - if Best Buy says that it will be taken care of, that's on them 100%.


Posts: 456   +38
I bet it was a specific individual worker rather than bestbuy as a company.
I'd say the chances of that are high. There are a a lot of company policies put in place so things like this don't happen.

The Individuals who traded the devices in are are just as, if not more guilty than Best Buy. Its 2015, there is absolutely NO excuse for not clearing your device. N.O.N.E.

If you dont, then you deserve whatever happens.

This isn't the case, especially if the company advertises that they will wipe it for you. If you return an item and the company is expecting to resell it, they should at least go through the effort of wiping the data. It may sound like a mundane task to us techspot users, but a lot of people out there have no idea they need to do such a thing.


Posts: 2,436   +2,037
Hey I'm going to return a device I know someone else is going to buy so It would be a smart thing not to wipe the data on it which probably includes private and sensitive data. I am going to rely on complete strangers to do it for me cause they work in retail, so they must be professional.


Posts: 4,305   +553
TS Special Forces
There is nothing to be ashamed about if there is a box office movie with a murder in it on your computer because as you said, there is a good chance it will have murder. The way the statement was made was as if it was something to be ashamed of and kept secret.
If you dont, then you deserve whatever happens.
I don't agree, not at all. When you buy an open box which is said to be reset to factory defaults, well that's what you expect, and you just don't want to fumble onto the previous owner and mingle with his/her settings. It's Best Buy's responsibility, more over as merchant (there are laws top protect confidential data in such context), period ! Btw, your argument is like saying "if someone leaves his door unlocked then he deserves to get robbed"... Only thieves would think in such a way. RESPECT of private property should be part of our values, else we don't deserve capitalism. Whatever : Best Buy says Factory defaults, then it's THEIR sole responsibility nor arguing there.