Covid seems to be on the downswing (hopefully). Airlines are reporting record-breaking bookings. There are a number of travel security considerations to be made when traveling domestically and even more when internationally.
If you are planning an upcoming vacation or a business trip, you might be thinking about renting a car. “Smart Cars” are all the rage, and they connect to the internet. You get Bluetooth, navigation, hands-free calling, live-streaming, and much more. In fact, if you have a fairly new car, yourself, you probably already have some access to these features. You probably connect your devices to your car, too, so that you can stream music, text, make phone calls, etc. This is no issue because it’s your own car, and only you and your family are using it.
Now, think of this. You have your devices, you are on vacation, and you have a rental car. So, you connect, just as you do at home. But what you don’t realize is that your personal information is now on the car, and the next person who rents it might be able to access it.
I travel a lot, and I rent a lot of cars. There has not been one car that I can think of that hasn’t had information about previous renters in it, and that’s pretty scary. I could even access their address book information in some cases.
Even if all you want to do is listen to Pandora or something, connecting to the rental car might still store data onto the car, including where you are driving. This might not seem like a huge deal if you are on vacation, but what if you have a rental car at home? The person who rents the car next can access your home address, your workplace, where you shop, etc.
The vehicle can also store your phone number and your text logs, too. Again, this can get into the hands of the wrong people unless you know how to delete them.
As you can see, there is more to auto safety than simply putting on your seat belt and refraining from texting and driving. If you are connecting to a smart car, the person who drives it next could learn so much from you; information that you certainly don’t want people to know.
Do This, Not That
Here are some tips you can use the next time you rent a car:
- Don’t use the USB port on a rental car to charge your phone. It can transfer data to the car. Instead, buy a cheap adapter and use the cigarette lighter.
- Check up on the permission settings of your devices. If the infotainment system allows you to choose what is sent, only give access to things that are necessary.
- Before you turn the car on, make sure to delete your phone from the car’s system.
Will your identity get stolen as soon as you connect your phone to a smart rental car? Probably not, but by connecting it and not deleting the data, you could run into some security and privacy issues down the road, including identity theft. Be smart, and don’t put yourself in a situation where someone else might get access to your personal information.
Some thieves specialize in hanging around tourist spots to spot the tourists and make them victims of hands-on crimes such as purse snatching or a mugging. But don’t wait till you’re aimlessly wandering the piazza with your face buried in a huge map to take precautions against less violent forms of crime.
- Before traveling, make copies of your driver’s license, medical insurance card, etc., and give these to a trusted adult. Have another set of copies in your home. Scan them and email them to yourself.
- Never post your travel plans on social media until you return. You never know who’s reading about you.
- Before departing from home, make sure your credit card company and bank know of your travel plans.
- Clear your smartphone or other devices of personal data that’s not essential for your trip.
- Travel on a light wallet. Take two credit cards with you in case one is lost or stolen. Have with you the phone numbers for your bank and credit card company, just in case.
- Avoid using Wi-Fi in coffee houses, airports, and other public areas other than just catching up on the news. Use a VPN. Google it.
- When traveling internationally, read up on the safety of food and water and get whatever shots you may need.
- Never give your credit card number to the hotel staff (or at least, anyone identifying themselves as hotel staff) over the phone in your hotel room. The call could be coming from a thief posing as hotel staff telling you they need your number again.
- Never leave anything out in your hotel room that reveals personal information, such as a credit card receipt, passport, checkbook, medical insurance card, etc. If the room does not have a safe, then have these items on you at all times.
- Use only an ATM that’s inside a bank, never a free-standing one outdoors somewhere. Cover the keypad with your other hand as you enter the PIN to thwart ATM skimmers.
Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.