ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - When you buy a new computer you know it's important to wipe your old one clean. The same goes when you upgrade a phone. But when you trade in a car, chances are you don't erase your navigation system or your garage door codes.
In fact, 5 on Your Side's Leisa Zigman put that theory to the test and the results are so concerning, local and state car dealers are responding.
With the help of Dave Sinclair Ford and Dave Sinclair Lincoln, staff popped the hoods of used cars with navigation systems and left us the keys. In car after car, we found a flashing home icon with an address.
"It's obvious this person is out in Ballwin a lot, and Wildwood," said Dave Sinclair, Jr.
One car's "favorites list" showed us a Catholic girls school and a home in a million dollar subdivision. We wiped it clean.
Another car listed two favorites; a Kirkwood steak house and their home address. We deleted that too.
Of the 12 cars we examined on the lots, nine had identifying information, and five pinged us with home addresses.
"I wouldn't have thought of it unless you had told me about it and we're going to change our process now," said James Sinclair, president of Dave Sinclair Lincoln and Ford.
For the next part of our experiment we drove to a home listed on a car's navigation system. The garage door codes were still plugged in. And so, with the door wide open, we went to warn the homeowner about our consumer test.
According to national reports, the bad guys looking to rob you already know this trick. We're not revealing a new way to steal, but a way for consumers to fight back.
Maria Clements wouldn't open the door because she is so protective of her children. We called her from the car and explained the story and then she greeted us saying, "Yeah, it freaks me out to think someone can just come into your house after everything you do. I got the alarm system and you are unlisted and you are doing all these things and just one thing like that. They're brilliant too, that is what they do for a living. The crooks? Yes!"
That was all James Sinclair needed to hear.
"I'll make sure it happens locally and at the statewide association that we notify the dealers that this is something you ought to add to your check list to wipe any navigation, garage door, wipe the codes out for the next buyer," he said.
How to wipe your GPS clean
Desi Desiderio installs GPS and other electronics at his Rolling Sound store in Jacksonville, Fla. He said the easiest way to erase your personal data from your GPS is to reset the system.
"It is not difficult," said Desiderio, "It is very simple."
How simple? Go into the main menu of the system, under settings, and it will give you the option to reset. Don't be afraid: Click the button to reset. Confirm you are erasing the data. In seconds, your navigational device is wiped clean.
"At that point it is going back to factory settings," said Desiderio.
When it is down, the system does not even recognize that you were there.
"There's nothing left in the system," he said, "it is like I was never here."
It is a very simple process and he said something everyone should do.
"When you're trading in your car, just be mindful of what you're leaving behind," said Desiderio, "because you never know what the next owner is going to do with that information."
How to remove the garage door opener code from your car
On some vehicles it's as simple as holding the 1 and 3 buttons down for five to ten seconds. The light will blink slowly and the quickly. At that point the codes are wiped clean.
You can also check with the garage mechanic because not all codes are programmed the same way or better yet, if you have your manual look for re-setting instructions.