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Don’t leave your personal information behind when you rent a car

If you rent cars often, you’re probably in the habit of taking at least a quick look around before you return them to make sure you haven’t left any belongings.

You also should be checking to see if you’ve left a trail of your data and possibly your personal information.

If you connect a mobile device such as your phone to the vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system, the vehicle may keep your mobile phone number, call and message logs, contacts and text messages, the Federal Trade Commission said in a warning this week.

“Unless you delete that data before you return the car, other people may view it, including future renters and rental car employees or even hackers,” the FTC said.

The agency offered this advice for how not to expose your information:

▪ Avoid connecting your mobile phones or devices to the infotainment system just for charging. It’s safer to use a cigarette lighter adapter to charge devices, instead of the car’s USB port. Why? In some cases, the USB connection may transfer data automatically.

▪ Check your permissions. If you do connect your device to the car, the infotainment system may present a screen that lets you specify which types of information you want the system to access. Grant access only to the information you think is necessary. If you just want to play music, for example, you don’t need to OK access to your contacts.

▪ Delete your data from the infotainment system before returning the car. Go into the infotainment system’s settings menu to find a list of devices that have been paired with the system. Locate your device and follow the prompts to delete it. The owner’s manual and the rental car company may have more information about how to delete your data.

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