Everyone who has ever gone on a major long-distance trip has, at one point, rented a car or considered renting one. Car rentals are a necessity in many situations, but that doesn't mean that they are necessarily safe. There are lots of things you should know before buying or leasing a car, but what about when renting one?
In the days of the Internet of Things, car rentals have come to be seriously risky. This is mainly because of Bluetooth. When you hook up your phone, watch, or tablet to your rental car, the information transferred from your phone gets stored on the car.
That data, just in case you were wondering, can end up in hackers' hands and cause you to have a lot of issues. Stop hackers by making data theft irrelevant. If you want to stay safe, it's best to erase all your personal data from your rental car. Here's how.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Don't like the idea of having to erase all your personal data from a rental car every single time? We can't blame you. That's why the easiest way to handle it is to rent cars that don't have Bluetooth capabilities or to avoid connecting your phone to the car.
That being said, if you do hook up your phone, you should absolutely erase the data yourself. You can't expect rental companies to do that—and that can be bad for you.
So wait, what's the worst that can happen if you don't erase all your personal data from the car?
It all depends on what ends up in the car's data files. In some cases, you may end up with payment information left in the car. Should the wrong person get their hands on that, they could easily steal money.
In other cases, they could find out where you live. In even more cases, they may find your contact information. Basically, it's just a lot of bad "what-if's" that could happen.
Who can access that data if I don't erase it?
There's no real way to tell who could access your data. It could be rental employees, future renters, or even sketchy hackers. In most cases, this will not be that much of an issue. Most renters won't care enough to meddle with your stuff. Most employees won't, either.
Once in a while, though, you might have someone who will meddle for their own personal gain—or just to mess up your life. That's why you should erase all your personal data.
What could happen if employees end up going through my data?
Technically, it is legal for employees to do that if they so wanted to. However, it's not something that you want to deal with. You never know if those employees will uncover dirty secrets, choose to harvest your information for other uses, or more.
So, let's talk about how to erase all your personal data from rental cars.
The cars that actually hold onto personal data are the ones that have Bluetooth enabled—and that means that it'll have touchscreen navigation panels in most cases. This should make navigating the entire thing easy.
To erase all your personal data from a rental car, you'll need to navigate your way to the car's system settings panel. On the settings panel, you'll notice that it'll have a list of paired devices.
Assuming that other renters didn't delete their data, you'll see a lot of different devices that are linked up to it. Do the other renters a favor, and unpair all of them.
Every car tends to have a slightly different operating system, but don't worry. Each car will have instructions on how to unpair devices. Just follow the instructions and erase everything.
The entire process shouldn't take more than five minutes.
It's sure seems like an involved process, right? Well, it's actually not. Those five minutes, though, can prevent a lot of harm from coming your way. So, if you're wise, you will erase all your personal data before you hand the car back to the rental company.
You can also preemptively limit the amount of data that's stored on the car's system, too.
Aside from learning how to erase all your personal data, there are other ways to protect your data in a rental car. Here are some smart tips you never would have guessed would work:
- Rather than charge your car in the infotainment center, use a plug with a 12V charger. This keeps data and energy separate, whereas infotainment centers tend to work by exchanging data automatically. Erase personal data? Why give it in the first place?
- If you love blasting music from your cellphone, use the auxiliary cable instead. Linking your device to your rental car's infotainment system is really not advisable.
- Check to see the permissions you use when you connect Bluetooth. It would be wise to avoid linking up contacts and credit cards to your rental car, at the very least.
- Set your home address to somewhere nearby, just in case. This way, if someone traces your address, you don't have to worry about fallout.
A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to protecting yourself, too.
Rental cars are used for a variety of different purposes. Some are legal, others are illegal. If you're renting a car for illegal purposes, do not connect your phone to it or use your phone while driving at all. Make sure you know the easy ways to get rid of odors in cars too, if you know what we mean.
Authorities could use that to track where you're going and that would be bad. This is true even if you do erase all your personal data from the car afterwards.