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Keep your Personal Information Safe During a Garage or Estate Sale

shutterstock_155981243During the summer, garage and estate sale signs seem to pop up faster than a field of dandelions on a sunny day. While holding a garage sale is a great way to unload some of your possessions and make some extra cash, if you are not careful you might unwittingly sell some of your family’s personal information. In order to safely prepare for your next garage or estate sale, consider the following tips:

Be Careful with Computers & Other Electronic Devices

Chances are good you have at least one old computer gathering dust in the garage. Before you sell it at your garage sale, be sure you remove any personal data from the hard drive. The last thing you want is for the new owner to have access to your bank or credit card data. How To Geek offers easy-to-follow advice on preparing your computer, tablet or phone before selling it. Back up any personal data from the old computer and then wipe the drive clean.

Check Family Heirlooms for Personal Information

If you plan to sell family heirlooms at your garage sale, take some time to inspect each one to be sure it doesn’t include names, birthdates and other info. An example of this: an old family Bible that might contain notes about the birthdates and birthplaces of many of your relatives. Access to a list of personal information like this would be like striking gold to an identity thief. Also, if you would like to sell old books, check the first few pages and black out any names and other personal information. Since people often write the full names of people in photos, remove any pictures from old frames you want to sell. Despite your best efforts, thieves may still gain access to some of your family’s personal information; as an additional layer of protection, invest in identity theft monitoring.

Remove Name Labels from Kids’ Items

Yes, garage sales are a perfect way to get rid of that old bassinet, rocker swing, mobile and zillions of gently used onesies. And yes, in a perfect world your precious child’s outgrown items will be purchased by other parents. But identity thieves can also use a child’s name to open a credit card or other nefarious activities. Remove name labels from jackets, toys and children’s books.

Additional Tips

Garage sales can be busy and chaotic. In order to make sure that bad guys are not walking off with some of your family heirlooms or your cash, you must be extra vigilant. Enlist the help of a few friends and family members and assign each of them a job — for example, your best friend can be cashier, and instead of an easily stolen cash box, have him or her keep the money in a fanny pack or money belt. Have a family member walk around and organize your items while keeping a sharp eye on shoppers. Conduct all sales in full view of others. If you are selling grandma’s antique couch, pay someone to help you haul it out front rather than inviting strangers into your home.

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