Recycling your old cell phone is a great idea and many charities accept used phones that they can either turned into cash or give to clients in need. But before you drop your phone in a collection box remember it's filled with personal data. You should remove personal information before you dispose of your phone. Permanent deletion usually requires several steps.
First, if you use a memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card remember to remove it from the phone.
You'll also want to remove the following: contacts, any lists of calls (received and made), voicemails, sent and received email and text messages, organizer folders, Web search history and photos.
But manually deleting this information may not permanently erase the data--only the references to the data storage. The actual information is lodged deep within the phone's operating system.
The simplest way to completely erase the data is to take it to your provider. When you upgrade your phone take the old phone with you. Most providers will transfer the data to the new phone. But remember to ask them to wipe out the old phone. And you must ask for this because it's not part of their routine. The service is usually free as long as your upgrading. Some providers have a written policy that without an upgrade they will charge a fee to transfer and remove data. Still it's usually a nominal amount and well worth your peace of mind.
If you are the do it yourself type you'll find instructions on how to permanently remove all data in your phone's user manual. Your service provider may also list instructions on their website. But you better know what you're doing because I don't want you dropping my name and phone number into some data collection box and neither does anyone else.