There are many factors that could put you in need of a rental car: leaving behind an unreliable vehicle for your vacation, getting around on your latest business trip, or needing a car after an accident and more. It's such a big business that there were over 2 million cars rented in the U.S. in 2015 alone.
Rental companies are constantly updating their fleets and bringing in newer vehicle models. However, there is a hidden danger with some of the new technology in these cars that could be putting you at risk.
Syncing your smartphone to your rental car, either via Bluetooth or USB, could leave your personal information exposed and allow people to spy on your every move. Government officials are warning people that everything from your address to text messages could be revealed.
Hands-free calls and texts, navigation tools, and streaming music services are just some of the things you can take advantage of in modern vehicles. The downside is that these features could store your personal information, even after you have turned in your rental car.
This issue is something we warned you about on Komando.com a few years ago. (Click here to see Kim's special report on the hidden risks of car rentals.) Now, this growing issue has finally caught the attention of the FTC. In a recent post on its website, the FTC explained just how risky this common practice is.
When you connect your gadget to your rental, the car stores your phone number to make it easier to connect later. It also stores all of your call logs, including any contacts you dialed, and even GPS locations of the places you've visited. There's just one problem: All that information is saved inside the system and just sitting around for the next renter to find.
If you must connect to your rental car's system, the FTC has provided a few guidelines. First, never connect your device to the car's infotainment system for charging purposes alone. Charge your gadget with the cigarette lighter adapter, rather than using the vehicle's USB port. (A good option is the Car Cupholder Charger & Adapter from the Komando Shop for $24.99.)
You should also check the permissions on your device before connecting. Most cars present drivers with a menu screen that also lets you specify what information it will have access to. Do not allow access to any information that isn't absolutely necessary.
After connecting to your rental's system, it's very important for you to know how to remove your personal data when you're done driving it. Here are the steps you need to follow.
Deleting Personal Information
FTC officials are urging car renters to delete their personal information before returning the vehicle. Here are the steps to do it:
- Locate the list of paired gadgets in the rental car infotainment system's settings menu.
- Find your gadget and delete it by following the prompted instructions.
- Check the owner's manual or with the rental company to find more information on deleting your data.
Keep in mind, your rental car isn't the only place where your personal information could be exposed while traveling. Click here for tips on how to browse safely on public Wi-Fi.