A Real Case Study On How NOT To Sell A Laptop

A couple of days ago I was surfing around the world’s favourite online auction site, looking for a cheap laptop.

And by cheap, I mean CHEAP.

I just wanted a functional machine that I could use (and abuse) when testing different antivirus programs as well as for a few other basic tasks.

Looking at the newly listed laptops for immediate purchase I found one that sounded too good to be true and, contrary to my own advice, clicked the buy button just as quickly as I could.

That just goes to show how some people get scammed – I actually bought the laptop without thinking it through and knowing that it seemed ridiculously underpriced.

That, though, is not the point of today’s post, even though I am still rather chuffed with my sub-$60 dual core machine with 2gb RAM, laptop bag and other rather nice extras!!!

how NOT to stay secure when selling a laptop

how NOT to stay secure when selling a laptop

The point I wish to make today is not about buying a laptop, it is about selling or otherwise disposing of one.

I’ve written before about the dangers of disposing of old computers and hard drives but the guy who sold me this laptop, well, he made just about every mistake possible.

Here is the letter I may very well send to him –

Dear Mark P****r

Yes, thats right, I know your full name and, as you may have guessed upon receipt of this letter, your full address too.

How, you may ask?

Well, the answer is harsh but simple – YOU ARE STUPID.

Heres why Mark –

Your Personal Information Is Too Valuable To Give Away

The first mistake you made was to not make any attempt whatsoever to clear your personal data off the laptop’s hard drive.

I mean, you didn’t even format the drive.

I switched the machine on, watched it boot into Vista and then I checked ‘My Computer’ to make sure all looked ok there.

I instantly noticed that about 40gb of the hard drive was in use and so I decided to delve deeper.

Not that I had to go far mind – your ‘My Documents’ folder was a treasure trove of information that any aspiring identity thief could have used to completely destroy your life.

The first thing I spotted was your CV (Resume) which was packed full of information that I wouldn’t ever consider putting in mine – your home address, phone number, date of birth and National Insurance number.

It got better though!

After reading through your life history as a handyman and possessor of other odd jobs I discovered that you really wanted to get screwed over in a big way – you helpfully added all your bank account details to the end of the CV, including your account number and sort code.

Storing Passwords And PINS On A Laptop Is Stupid

If you must do it at least encrypt the files you store them in at the very least.

Don’t ever, ever, ever store them in Notepad Mark!

Thats right, 20 seconds after booting the laptop and I already know who you bank with, your account number, the user name and password for your online banking, your credit card details and the PIN numbers for both.

Its just as well I’m honest!

Your Wife Is Hot But You Can Keep The Kids!

I looked in ‘My Pictures’ and I have to say your two young sons are cute – I’m guessing the professional photo shoot you took them to cost a lot of money, right?

I’m sure Tyler and Dudley appreciated it though.

Moving on, I found some much more interesting pictures – I imagine your wife Tracey is quite a hottie though not, perhaps, when she wears as little as she does in some of these pics 😉

Quite an eyeful some of those snaps of her Mark, left me trying to guess her vital statistics, hope you don’t mind.

Its ok though, I stopped guessing after 30 seconds which was about the time I found a folder called ‘shopping’ which detailed everything your wife had bought online in the last 2 years.

You know about all this stuff, right?

Just in case you don’t notice your wife and, lets face it, most men don’t, then I have to tell you that she wears a size 8 dress now which I have to say is much healthier than the size 6 she used to be.

There are a couple of other things about her which you will have noticed – I did with those photos you gave me – and thats because she wears a 36EE bra… write that down, remember it at Christmas, brownie points and all that.

I’m sure there are many more things I could tell you Mark but I’ve only just started delving into your computer.

Give me a day or two and perhaps I’ll give you a call – after all, I now know your phone number too!



Naturally, I would never send such a sarcastic letter to anyone.

Well, ok, maybe I would, but not on this occasion – instead I simply reformatted the hard drive and moved on.

The moral of this story, though, is that Mark (yes, thats his real name) left so much information on the laptop that he could have been financially destroyed if he had sold it to the wrong person.

Other potential buyers may have taken too much pleasure from viewing his photos, others still would have taken advantage of the active email account he left behind, courtesy of the handy notepad doc which listed his login details and password.

When selling a computer protect the data on your hard drive.

Be clever.

Don’t be Mark.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


  1. LMAO,,, cant help it Lee.
    I bought a used computer awhile back an yes i checked thru just about everything, they did at least do a fairly good job of cleaning it out,, of course i have their full name,, 1 pic i cant enlarge – to bad it looks interesting to say the least.

    Folks really need to wipe the hard drive clean or better if they are able to – remove it.

    Thanks for the laugh, an yes i passed this on.

    • What I mentioned above is only the beginning Dave – I’ve found much more since.

      I know his parents names, address, phone numbers and bank account details.

      I know the family’s doctor and all their recent ailments.

      I have discovered diary entries saved in notepad that go back a couple of years that reveal wayyyyy too much info.

      Quite unbelievable really.

      • Well dang you now know as much about them as they know about themselves. I cant believe people like that – oh wait – yes i can.
        They need a reality check in regards to computers an what to put on them an leave.
        I vote them as pure lucky people.


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