Hank Investigates: Beware before you pair your smartphone

BOSTON (WHDH) -

Hands-free is the way to go when you use your phone from behind the wheel. But investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan found the technology could keep you more connected than you think. Hank investigates: Why you should beware before you pair.

When we called Ancel’s cell phone and asked for him by name, he was pretty surprised…

“Yeah, that’s my name and phone number,” Ancel said. 

How did we know who he was?

Ancel had paired his cell phone to the car he rented to drive from his home in Boston up to Maine. But what he didn’t know: That car saved his personal info on the car’s Bluetooth menu. We were the next people to get in the car, and there it was.

 “What do you think about that?” Hank Phillippi Ryan asked. 

“It’s pretty scary,” Ancel said.

“Did you think that would still be there?” Hank asked. 

“No, no, not at all,” Ancel said. 

 And when we checked other rental cars, we found other driver’s names, numbers, even the places they traveled.

 Forensic engineers told Hank the moment you pair your phone, or plug into some car’s infotainment system to listen to your music, you could be leaving a massive digital trail.

 “I don’t think people know at all,” forensic engineer Robert Kinder, Jr.,  from DJS Associates said. 

 Whether you rent, lease or own the car, once you connect that vehicle to your phone, it may download and store a shocking amount of stuff.

 And with the right tech equipment and savvy, all that personal information can pretty easily be revealed.

 “Text messages, call logs deleted phone calls, deleted messages, times, dates, GPS locations, pictures and videos,” forensic engineer Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., president of DJS Associates said. “It’s terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.”

 By searching just one rental car these investigators discovered more than 20 devices were connected to the vehicle.

 They found one driver often spoke to their mother, listened to Jimmy Buffet, and visited a specific building on August 27th at 8:39 am.

 “If there’s anything on your phone that you would be scared that someone who had possession of your cell phone could access, people can access that through the data that’s left on the vehicles,” Schorr said. 

 And once it’s there, it stays there.

 “When you unpair or unplug your phone does it go away?” Hank asked. 

“When you disconnect your phone this does not go away,” Kinder said. 

 And the engineers say, it’s nearly impossible to get the info off.

“You can take it apart and find the memory chip, you can burn the vehicle. It’s tough, it’s really tough,” Kinder said.

 Ancel said from now on when he’s on the road he’ll be listening to the radio.

 “How will this your change your life now?” Hank asked. 

“Definitely be mindful of where I connect,” Ancel said. “Because it’s dangerous what people can have.”

 While experts say there isn’t much you can do to delete your data, when you return a rental car you can at least delete your phone from the car’s Bluetooth menu, so the next driver won’t see who rented it before.

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