Never Leave a Rental House Without Doing This One Thing, Experts Say
Add this important step to your to-do list before heading home.
One of the best perks about staying at a vacation rental property is that it can easily feel like your home away from home. And whether it's a cozy cottage in the mountains or a beachside abode, there's a good chance you're making yourself as comfortable as possible during your well-earned vacation. But according to experts, there's a chance you're forgetting to do one crucial thing before you leave your rental house at the end of your trip. Read on to see what you should be adding to your travel checklist.
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You should always log out of your accounts on smart devices before leaving a rental house.
Your packing-up checklist likely always includes taking out the trash and stripping the beds, but you might be leaving a costly digital trail by forgetting to log out of accounts on devices you used in a rental house. If the next guest at the rental home still has access to your Amazon Video, Apple TV+, Hulu, or other similar subscription service, they could make costly purchases on your dime, Raleigh, North Carolina NBC affiliate WRAL reports.
Jerome Smith, a cybersecurity expert, told WRAL that he discovered the previous renter in a home he was vacationing had left their Amazon Prime account logged in after leaving, allowing him to purchase or rent films for as much as $20 each. "[I] could have racked up a very expensive bill for the previous couple," he said, adding that he's seen hotels and rental houses all over with accounts left logged in.
Forgetting to log out of other smart devices can also grant other renters access to your information.
But it's not just your streaming habits that other renters could exploit. Monica Laliberte, a WRAL employee reporting the story, described a situation with her family involving an Amazon Echo Dot smart hub. "I was at a house on the coast when the TV suddenly turned on with some sort of message. At first, I thought it was a movie trailer, then I heard another voice message, and I was thinking, 'that voice sounds familiar.' Finally, I realized it was my daughter's voice," she said.
She then realized that her daughter's account was connected to the account logged in to the smart TV at the house she was staying in. It turns out the conversation she was hearing was her daughter communicating with her husband using the Echo Dot's intercom device at their home over two hours away.
While the incident luckily happened between family members in a shared home, the revelation exposed how sensitive information could easily end up in a stranger's hands if someone were to leave their account logged in after leaving a rental house. In a statement to WRAL, a spokesperson for Amazon explained: "Alexa Announcements are intentionally designed to broadcast to all Alexa-enabled devices associated with a customer's Amazon account, including Alexa-enabled Fire TVs. Customers can control which Alexa-enabled devices can send and receive Announcements via the settings in the Alexa app."
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Use two-factor authentication to prevent accidentally giving someone access to your accounts.
When it comes to securing your personal accounts on the go, some familiar tactics can still apply. Smith says that "most renters don't use PINs or two-factor authentication," suggesting that setting up the extra layer of protection can help keep your digital property secure. The process uses a separate device such as your phone to verify your identity.
To set up two-factor authentication on your Amazon account, click Your Account and select "Login & security." Then, click the Edit button beside Two-Step Verification (2SV) Settings and click Get Started.
Already out the door and realized you're still logged in? You can still log out remotely even if you've already left the rental. For Amazon Prime Video, click into Manage your Content and Devices, then click Devices. From there, clicking Deregister will log your account out on any specific devices that may not belong to you.
You can protect yourself by traveling with the hardware you need to avoid logging in.
If you're really trying to stay safe, one of the best options is traveling with your own hardware so you can avoid logging into a stranger's device altogether. Consider buying an HDMI cable that can run from your laptop into most modern TVs. You could also bring along small, portable streaming devices such as a Google Chromecast, Roku Streaming Stick, or Amazon Fire TV Stick that can easily plug into a TV and stream from your phone, tablet, or laptop, Techaeris suggests.