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preventing identity theft in a rental car
Posted on November 3, 2016 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

For your next vacation or even business trip, you may inevitably end up renting a “smart car,” you know, one that’s connected to the Internet. The perks: hands-free calls, navigation, Bluetooth, live-streaming, and more. If your car is just a few years old, your own car is probably already well-connected and you expect anything you’d rent to have the same technology.

And there’s no problem with connecting your devices to your own car since you’ll likely be the only one using it. In that case, trying to find ways to help prevent identity theft may not a major priority.

Now, imagine the potential downfall of renting a connected car: your personal information getting absorbed and passed on to the next renter. That’s as good as going up to a stranger on the street and spilling all your personal information to them. Now you need to start thinking of ways to help prevent identity theft!

I rent dozens of cars each year. And there isn’t a single car I’ve rented where there hasn’t been the previous 10 renters contact details and even some address book information.

Even if you simply want to use the vehicle’s infotainment system, this might store data on where you’ve been driving the rental car to and from. Now that may not be a big deal if you’re on vacation, but if you’re renting a car for home use while yours is in the shop, the next renter could find out where your home is, where your workplace is, where you’ve shopped, etc.

The vehicle may also store your phone number and text message logs if you connect your smartphone. This can get into the hands of the next renter—which could be a seedy person—unless you know to delete this data.

So unfortunately, there’s more to auto safety than just buckling up and not texting while driving. The next user of the vehicle could inherit your data to the point of knowing your home address (even if you didn’t drive the rental car there), where your young children go to school, and other sensitive information sent via text and more.

What You Should (and Should Not) Do

  • Don’t use the vehicle’s USB port for recharging your phone, as this could transfer information on your phone. Instead bring an adapter and use the cigarette lighter.
  • Check your permission settings. If the infotainment system allows you to choose the types of information that you want the system to access, give permissions for only that which is necessary.
  • Before turning the car in, delete your phone from the system. Make sure you really know how to do this before you drive off of the lot.

Is your identity going to get stolen the second you connect your phone to a rental car? Probably not. But connecting your phone to a rental car without understanding the risks could result in privacy and security issues and possibly identity theft. When it comes to security, the worst thing you can do is nothing.

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