Drivers urged to delete personal data before selling car or risk scams

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Modern cars and vans are packed with state-of-the-art technology designed to make the driving experience more enjoyable. Most new vehicles come as standard with sat-nav, entertainment systems and even built-in Wi-Fi hotspots.

Some of these features also take note of the driving experience and habits, which can help with monitoring car performance.

Features like sat-navs can be used to offer guidance on traffic hot spots, especially if someone goes on the same route on a consistent basis.

With this in mind, drivers are warned that they risk leaving sensitive data behind when they swap or sell their cars if they don’t take precautions.

So-called “connected cars” operate much like smartphones – collecting information about the owner and their habits in order to improve the user experience. 

Many require an app to access all of the features, while further preferences can also be harvested when you visit a manufacturer’s website or interact with them on social media.

Phone calls, live chat and correspondence through third parties such as finance companies are also registered.

Graham Conway, Managing Director of Select Car Leasing, said: “Modern cars collect and retain a lot of data, especially on infotainment systems.

“This can include contacts, home addresses and even bank and credit card details linked to software such as Apple Pay or Google Pay.

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“Not only could this potentially sensitive information be easily accessed by the new owner of the vehicle, but also total strangers if they decide to sell the infotainment system.

 “So I would urge drivers to carry out a factory reset of anything that can collect data before handing over the vehicle to make sure it’s all wiped clean.”

Vehicle manufacturers go to great lengths to protect this, investing huge sums of money in cyber security while using ‘hashing’ or sophisticated encryption to safeguard the data. 

But if it were to fall into the wrong hands, it could potentially be used against you in a host of increasingly complex scams.

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Select Car Leasing has also analysed the UK’s top 20 best-selling car manufacturers and their data privacy policies.

German giant Volkswagen topped the list, tracking 18 out of a potential 22 categories of information about its drivers. 

These include not only basic customer details like name and address but also the vehicle’s location, voice recordings from voice commands and even social media profiles. 

EV groundbreaker Tesla tied with Japanese manufacturer Nissan in second spot, both keeping tabs on 17 different data types. 

Tesla is renowned for the data its vehicles collect using external sensors and cameras, but they can also record inside their vehicles by taking pictures and videos through a camera in the rearview mirror.

This is done in the event of an accident, while autopilot data can also be logged.

Mr Conway said: “This highlights just how much of your personal data can be collected.

“But as well as doing a factory reset, there are some other steps you can take when selling or returning a vehicle. 

“You can opt out of many different types of data collection by not giving your permission when you first get your vehicle.

“If you already own it, update your marketing and data preferences directly with the car manufacturer and through associated mobile apps.”

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