If you’re selling a vehicle, you’ve probably thought about where to sell it and what prices to accept. However, many people do not ask whether or not the vehicle contains personal data.
Cars now record more personal data than ever before. This is useful as long as you own them; it offers additional features. But when it’s time to sell, that same information can potentially be used against you.
So why is personal data a problem and how can you delete it before selling your car?
Why should you delete your personal data from a vehicle?
Depending on how long you have owned your vehicle, you might be surprised to learn how many places your personal data has been stored. The value of this data varies considerably. This could tell the new owner your driving preferences or allow them to steal your money.
Personal data in sufficient quantity can be used for identity theft. Small amounts of information cannot be used for this purpose, but it can still be used to impersonate you, access your private accounts, and perform social engineering against you.
Social engineering often consists of contacting the victim and pretending to be someone else in order to obtain something. Naturally, the more information one knows about the victim, the easier it is.
Who can access your personal data?
Personal data on a car is mainly an issue when you are selling a car that you own. The new buyer can decide to access the information, or the car can be broken down into parts, and one of the parts can be resold.
If you rent a car, the problem is not better. Company employees should not be trusted to delete the data for you and may even access it themselves. Many people even leave their data on short-term rentals.
It should be noted that this data is also available to anyone who borrows your vehicle. This includes valets and anyone who services your vehicle. Deleting data in these scenarios is inconvenient, but you should sign out of your accounts.
8 ways to remove your personal data from a vehicle
Deleting personal data from a vehicle is not particularly difficult. The main reason people leave their data behind is because they’re not aware they’re doing it. Here are eight things to do before handing over your vehicle.
1. Perform a factory reset
Some cars have a factory reset option. If you’re not sure, it’s worth checking the manual or contacting the manufacturer to find out. It is important to note that even if your car offers this feature, it does not necessarily delete all data. It is always recommended to go through your vehicle and check the other items individually.
2. Delete GPS data
GPS is useful, but in the wrong hands it also provides a lot of information about you. Before selling your vehicle, you must delete all your saved routes, favorite places and driving history. This information not only indicates where you live, but when you are unlikely to be there. A particularly motivated thief could also follow you to a place where it is easy to rob you.
3. Delete Bluetooth pairings
Bluetooth is hard to use against you but could theoretically be used to access any of your devices. Depending on the device, this could then be used to access one of your accounts. This obviously requires the new owner to be close to a device you own. But if you haven’t deleted your GPS information, they know exactly where to go.
4. Delete your contacts
Your contacts are potentially valuable because the buyer knows your name and can contact one of them and impersonate you. They can also use your call history to pick a good time. Most people don’t deliberately store this information in their vehicle, but many vehicles will automatically add your contacts when you plug in your phone using a USB port.
5. Remove Garage Access
Anything that allows your vehicle to access your home should be removed. Vehicles are often configured to open garage doors at the press of a button, which is ideal for a dishonest buyer. This is obviously aggravated if you have sold your vehicle at home or have not deleted your GPS information.
6. Log out of vehicle apps
If you’re using apps on your car, you need to make sure you’re signed out. You should also check that your username and password are not added automatically when you attempt to login. Some apps aren’t particularly important, but mobile payment apps are popular in cars, and it might provide a route to your bank account.
7. Wipe and delete storage drives
If your car has any type of hard drive, it must be erased before selling or returning the lease. You should also check all removable storage locations, such as SD card readers. USB drives are particularly important to monitor. They are often added to play music but can also contain personal information.
8. Delete Physical Items
Most people remove all physical items from their car before selling, but it’s worth noting because it’s easy to miss a few items. Obvious documents are usually stored in the glove box, but you should also look under the seats and other small areas. You basically aim to remove anything that contains your name and address or financial information.
Personal vehicle data is a new problem
It’s easy to leave personal data on a vehicle because until recently there was no data to delete. The cars were anonymous apart from their registration details.
However, if you’re selling a vehicle now, it’s important to understand that you’re pretty much selling a computer that you use every day. This makes vehicles easier to use, but it also poses a privacy risk.
This data is not difficult to delete and by doing so you avoid the risk that it will never be used against you.
Online shopping isn’t just limited to clothing, supplies, and appliances. Nowadays, you can even buy your next vehicle directly on the web. But before you do, there are some things you need to know.
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