Category: Useful Websites

Watch the world from home

Filed under: Useful Websites - Jul 30 2020

To help pass the time while sheltering or quarantining at home, check out these websites to view live video of webcams featuring scenery and nature.

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The difference between Credit Monitoring Vs. Identity Theft Protection

Filed under: Internet Tips,Security,Useful Websites - Aug 06 2019

Considering all the data breaches lately, you should be monitoring and protecting your accounts and personal information – but what is the best method for you? Should you use a credit monitoring service or subscribe to identity theft protection instead? What’s the difference between the two methods?

Credit monitoring services monitor activity on your accounts with the major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). Creditors report all activities related to borrowing money, including your payment history, to credit reporting agencies. Monitoring services may monitor your history with all three agencies or be exclusive to a certain agency.

With credit monitoring, you’re alerted to various changes in your credit report – for example, when a potential creditor asks for your credit history or when new credit card accounts or loans are opened in your name. Any activity that is reported to the credit reporting agency is monitored.

However, identity theft can involve more than fraudulent loans or credit accounts in your name. Thieves can use your Social Security number and other personal information to open bank accounts, get jobs, receive government benefits – even commit crimes in your name. None of these activities will show up on your credit report because borrowing is not involved.

Identity theft protection services typically include credit monitoring and also check for non-credit related abuses of your information – or let you know that your compromised information is out there, available to thieves for future abuse. Monitoring may include dark web scans, arrest records, court filings, changes of address, and social media accounts.

Identity theft protection services may also include help to restore your identity and resolve fraudulent uses and claims, as well as identity theft insurance. However despite the marketing claims to scare you into buying such protections there are things that identity theft services can and cannot do for you.

Victims of data breaches are often offered free credit monitoring or identity protection services for a limited period of time – however you need long-term protection, especially once your personal data has been compromised. You can always cancel accounts and change passwords, but once your Social Security number is compromised, you are in for a lifelong battle with identity thieves.

If identity theft protection generally includes credit monitoring, why would you opt for credit monitoring alone? Cost could be a factor, along with any extra services that the identity theft protection service provides that an credit monitoring does not. With some effort on your part do-it-yourself safeguards can be just as effective as paid services. If you’d prefer to pay to have a service take care of it for you, here are some recommendations and paid endorsements for identity theft monitoring services.

Note that most credit monitoring and identity theft protection services are reactive, not proactive. They let you know when suspicious activity has occurred, but they can’t prevent it from happening. You can supplement either service by using following these proactive tips:

  • Shred any sensitive information before discarding it.
  • Follow through with our top 5 password tips.
  • Be suspicious of all e-mails, text messages, pop-ups and unsolicited phone calls claiming that there’s a problem that requires your immediate reaction – such as calling an unfamiliar phone number or divulging your personal information or login credentials over the phone or via an email link.
  • Check your credit frequently, and consider a credit freeze on your accounts to prevent thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in your name.

Help either service by making it more difficult for identity thieves to get your information, or to use your information if they do get it. Now is the time to follow through with whatever protection you choose. Identity thieves look for the easiest unprotected targets – don’t be one of them.

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How to find your lost or stolen mobile smartphone or tablet

Filed under: Computing Tips,Useful Websites - Apr 17 2018

Originally published 6/28/14
Updated 4/17/18

If you’ve lost your smartphone or tablet, or if your device is stolen, you can often find its location by using another similar device or computer. But before your device can be located, your device needs to be setup to allow it to be located. Now is the time to check and make sure your device is setup – before it becomes lost or stolen.

For an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad, go into Settings > iCloud, and make sure “Find My iPhone” is on. Once setup on your device you can go to iCloud.com/find in your computer web browser, or the “Find My iPhone” app on another mobile device, sign into your iCloud account and choose Find My iPhone. More information here.

For an Android device with software version 4.1 or above, follow the instructions here to turn on Android Device Manager on your device. Then go to android.com/find in your computer web browser, or “Find My Device” app on another mobile device, sign into your Google account and follow the prompts.

 

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How to safely manage your passwords

Filed under: Computing Tips,Useful Websites - Nov 06 2016

Updated February 2021:

Password security

When helping clients log in to their computer or websites, often I will see them pull out a scratch pad or sticky notes with various passwords scribbled on the page. There’s a better and more secure method to record your login information.

For years I’ve recommended using your own variant of my password system to help you memorize the unique passwords that you use for every device and web site. When changing passwords I recommend starting with your email password, then financial websites, followed by the less-important web sites that you’ve used over the years. Your email password is one of your most important passwords since many websites send password reset requests to your email address. If a hacker gains access to your email, they could change the passwords and lock you out of all of your other online accounts.

In addition to using a system where most of my passwords are easy to remember, I also use a password manager to keep my passwords and secure notes synchronized between devices. While there are many password managers to choose from, the one I use is LastPass. It works with and syncs my passwords and secure notes across all of my devices and web browsers. My LastPass vault is kept locked with a super-secure unique password or biometric authentication on my smartphone, which protects the other passwords and secure notes stored in LastPass. The Emergency Access feature allows passwords to be shared with trusted individuals upon your sickness or death. You can read a review of LastPass here. Other than website logins you can also store other information in LastPass, such as Wi-Fi passwords, bank and credit card account numbers, driver license, passport, social security, insurance policy numbers – along with card pictures too.

If you don’t need the sophistication of a dedicated password manager, you can use the password manager built right into your web browser and/or smartphone. On a Windows PC, your web browser has a built-in password manager. See details for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox’s Lockwise and Microsoft Edge.

Alternatively, if you have all Apple devices you may be already storing and syncing passwords with iCloud Keychain which can be accessed via Website & App Passwords in Settings on an iDevice, the Passwords Preferences in Safari on a Mac, and via a Google Chrome extension on a Windows PC. On an Android device, you may be already storing and syncing your passwords via the Google Password Manager and Chrome browser – click here for more information.

The simplest method to store passwords that can synchronize between your devices is using the Notes app on Apple/iCloud devices or Google Keep which is available on most devices. Make sure that each of your devices where you use Notes or Google Keep are synchronizing with your cloud account, and each device where you are logged in needs to be protected with a secure password.

2SA, 2FA or MFA: For more security, many online services offer the additional option to call, text or send a prompt to your smartphone in order complete the login process. For more information Read more about 2-factor authentication here.

If you prefer to want keep your passwords in typewritten form such as a document or spreadsheet, never name the file “passwords”, nor include the name “password” in the content of a file – both are easily searchable on a computer. You can also password-protect a document or spreadsheet with a password that you can easily remember or is stored in a secure and memorable location. Also, don’t type the entire password – just parts that aren’t easily memorable. For example you could type the name of the website and date, but use an underscore “_” or dash “-” for characters of the password that you’ve memorized without revealing the entire password to someone that you may not want to view your password list. For example, my typed Yahoo password would be M – – Y – – 0 9 1 6 – I know what characters are represented by dashes. Also make sure that

A low-tech method for keeping track of your passwords is using a password log book such as this #1 Best Seller at Amazon. I suggest not writing complete passwords in the book, but hints to the password (see above). Also you should store the book in a locked fire-proof safe or non-obvious location, remove the cover sleeve that says “passwords”, and make sure your spouse and next of kin know the location of the book.

For all logins include the following 5 pieces of information at a minimum:

  1. Login name (e.g. AAA)
  2. Website address (e.g. www.aaa.com)
  3. Username/email address (e.g. myemail@myemail.com or mesmith89501)
  4. Password – labeled “pw” (e.g. AbcAaa123)
  5. Date (e.g. Changed 2/14/2014 due to data breach)

If you need help setting up any of the methods mentioned above, we can help.

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Many of our monthly tech support calls could have been avoided had the caller read our monthly newsletter

Filed under: Computing Tips,Security,Useful Websites - May 13 2015

We appreciate the opportunity to help you with each service call. Nonetheless each month we get dozens of calls that could have been avoided had the caller read our monthly newsletter. Below are the most common types of calls that could have been avoided:

Tech support phone and internet search scams

It starts with a call to or from an official sounding computer company representative. Maybe you saw a pop-up on your screen telling you to call a toll-free number. The remote “technician” usually with a foreign accent wants to take control of your computer to show you problems or offer to fix a problem that you had called about. After he or she is allowed remote control, they show you a bunch of scary problems with the computer then offer to “fix” the problems for a few hundred dollars. If they sense you’re getting skeptical, sometimes they’ll quickly put a password on your computer and lock you out, delete your files, or install spyware or malware.

How can this be avoided? Never let anyone that you don’t know take remotely control of your computer. If someone calls you telling you they detect problems with your computer, tell them you don’t have a computer then hang up.

Click here to read more info about tech support scams.

Downloading software from a bad website

It starts with a pop-up telling you that you need to update a program. Or maybe you’re looking for a program that someone told you about. When searching the internet for that program, you might click the first result you see and accept all the agreements without thoroughly reading everything. The next thing you notice is that your browser home page has changed, you’ve got extra icons on your desktop and you’re getting more pop-ups than before.

How can this be avoided? Don’t download anything from a website unless you specifically went looking for it. When searching the internet, scroll past the ad results and look for the official website to download programs. When installing programs, read each screen thoroughly and uncheck all optional extras such as browser toolbars or tuneup programs.

Click here to view examples of internet searches with ads that should be avoided.

Click here to read more about “Free” security scans.

Letting many little problems build up into one big problem

It starts with your computer acting more slowly than before. Perhaps there are extra icons on your desktop that you don’t recognize. Maybe your browser home page has changed or you’re getting more pop-up ads. The longer little things like this are left unchecked, it can lead up to bigger problems down the road. Adware that starts letting other malicious software in can also alter your internet search results. Occasional slow downs can be hard drive errors that eventually lead to a complete failure or “crash” of the hard drive, and loss of personal data.

How can this be avoided? Once you start noticing unusual behavior with your computer, call Computer Techs sooner than later. A regularly scheduled check-up is less expensive than the hundreds of dollars it can cost to remove a nasty virus or replacing a hard drive that has completely failed. Consider our Quarterly Maintenance Plan to detect easy-to-fix issues before they become major problems.

Take this 5 question quiz to test your knowledge about computer spyware.

Keep all of your store loyalty and savings cards conveniently in one place

Filed under: Useful Websites - May 11 2015


Click above to watch the video: Keep all of your store loyalty and savings cards conveniently in one place.

Many stores also have their own smartphone app that let you scan your loyalty/savings card from their app. Now you can leave the cards filling up your wallet and keyring at home. Search for Key Ring in the iOS App Store or Android Google Play Store.

Get cash for your old gadgets

Filed under: Useful Websites - Nov 07 2014

Amazon Trade-In lets you trade in your electronics in exchange for an Amazon.com credit – typically at a higher value than most other trade-in programs.

Gazelle is an on-line service where you can get money or donate gadgets you no longer use such as cell phones, digital cameras, laptops, MP3 players, etc.

Best Buy’s Tech Trade-In also offers a way to receive a Best Buy gift card for any old gadgets you want to get rid of.

If you don’t want the hassle of trying to sell your gadgets on eBay or Craigslist these resources are a good way to go.

Feel free to post your experience with these or other services in the comments section below.

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Save time & money with online banking

Filed under: Computing Tips,Useful Websites - Sep 02 2013

Updated September 2013:

Most banks offer online banking services which let you check account balances and cleared transactions, transfer funds between accounts and pay bills directly from your bank account without writing and mailing a check.

I have been using internet banking for over 10 years.  My favorite feature is Bill Pay – the ability to schedule bill payments that will be automatically deducted from my checking account on a future date that I specify. I pay utility bills, car payments, credit cards bills and even my lawn care company using the bill pay service that my bank offers. I not only save time, I also save money because I no longer have to buy stamps or worry about checks getting delayed or lost in the mail.

Bank of America has online tutorials on how to use Bill Pay and other features of online banking – your bank may offer similar tutorials.

Online banking on your computer, tablet or smart phone is secure because transactions are encrypted between your device and the bank’s computers. Banks require the use of a secure username and password and other authentication measures to help prevent unauthorized access to online accounts. In many ways online banking is safer than handing your credit card to a server at a restaurant, or having your checking or credit card account information being handled in the mail.

Computer Techs offers one-on-one tutoring on how to use online banking. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

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US-CERT website offers tips about common security issues

Filed under: Computing Tips,Useful Websites - Sep 01 2013

The Department of Homeland Security’s United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) website offers non-technical tips and advice about common security issues affecting computer and internet users.

Articles include tips in several different categories including Attacks and Threats, Email and Communication, Mobile Devices, Privacy and Safe Browsing.

You can learn more about computer and internet safety by visiting the website at http://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips

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