Safeguarding Yourself From Scams – Don’t become a victim! Part 2: What You Can Do To Safeguard Your Information

Safeguarding Yourself From Scams – Don’t become a victim!

Part 2: What You Can Do To Safeguard Your Information

Online Security Protection Internet Safety Guard Lock Concept

1.) Don’t share your passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers or any other pertinent information with anyone.

2.) Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords, but with the amount of passwords people need now, it’s getting a bit more complicated to keep track of them all without writing them down.

3.) Keep your computer’s spyware and antivirus software up to date and scan your computer regularly.

4.) Make sure you have firewalls up and running at all times. Whether it’s the built-in Windows firewall, your router’s firewall or a 3rd party firewall software; or all of them in combination if you really want to make sure they are working.

5.) Always be wary of emails asking for your personal or financial information. Don’t click on links or open emails that seem suspicious to you at all. Even one simple click can open your computer up to a criminal – installing malicious software and stealing your information. Never click on links in emails or links on web sites that you don’t know or don’t trust. If you get an email from “your bank” saying you need to log into your account right away for any reason, but you aren’t sure the email is actually coming from your bank then don’t click on any links in that email. Open a new internet browser, type in the URL yourself and then log in to your account and make sure everything is as it should be. If a link doesn’t feel right, don’t click it.

6.) Keep an eye on your assets and your credit and check on everything on a regular basis. Make sure to report any odd or suspicious activity immediately. Switch over to paperless billing and statements. Pretty much everyone now-a-days offers paperless statements… banks, credit cards, house-hold billing companies. Having them all delivered to your email inbox instead of your physical address saves paper, postage and also eliminates the possibility of someone stealing your mail.

7.) Never write your full account numbers on your checks when you pay your bills, especially when paying credit card bills, just write in the last four digits of your account number.

8.) Always shred documents you do not need, don’t just throw them in the trash. Criminals do sift through your trash looking for pertinent documents.

9.) Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to talk about it.

 

If Your ID Is Stolen:
Immediately file a fraud alert on your credit report by calling Equifax (888-766-0008), TransUnion (800-680-7289) or Experian (888-397-3742). After you have filed your report, call the issuers of any credit cards that may have been affected.

 

Basically the gist of everything I’ve written is: be careful with the personal information that you give out.
We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different company websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is. There is nothing free in life. Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are more often than not going to cost you a lot more than you think.

 

A Few Tips For Kids:

staying_safe_online_large

 

Do you need any assistance? Want a professional to check your computer security? Contact TeCHS today!

~Your TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Your Digital Life Simplified!

www.ezDigitalLife.com | (800) 669-2022

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Online Safety, Part 3

Before I start this article I would like to share a personal experience about fraud and my grandparents.

Last year my grandfather received a phone call from a man who claimed to be a lawyer in Virginia who told him that his grandson was in that state at a wedding, that he got drunk, drove, was arrested and needed $3,000 for bail money. My grandfather did exactly what any other caring family member would – he raced to a Western Union office to send the money.

My grandmother thought it was a bit odd and decided to call me and ask if my brother had traveled out of state to a wedding. He had not. My brother was safe at work in Ventura. I told them to get back in the car and get back over to the Western Union office to put a stop on the wire transfer. Thank goodness they called me in time and got back to the Western Union office in time. We were very fortunate and happened to get their money back.

Very scary!

So how can you protect yourself from crafty digital-age criminals?

Thieves are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. A lot of the technology you use everyday can leave you open for a possible attack. There is no guarantee that anyone’s information is 100% safe, no matter how careful you are, but there are a few small things you can do to reduce your risks of becoming a victim.

Phones and home valuables.

When it is possible, try to keep your private conversations private. In order to ensure that private conversations are not being spied on, sensitive conversations should be done in person and in a private location.

Cell phones are less secure than landline telephones and with the right technology your cell phone signal can be intercepted. It is best to keep your cell phone password protected and all of the information backed up. There is quite a lot of personal information stored on your cell phone that you may or may not know about:

  • Your social security number
  • Your full name
  • Your address
  • Your bank account numbers
  • Your credit card numbers
  • Other miscellaneous account numbers

Living in a gated community offers you excellent advantages such as:

  • Secure locked mail boxes
  • Flood lights
  • Controlled entry
  • Security patrols

There are additional safety measures that you can take. Always keep valuables hidden in your home; don’t leave things like jewelry boxes sitting on top of dressers in plain sight. Small portable fire safes are great for keeping your valuables safe from fire… but if a criminal finds one in your home, you saved them the trouble of having to collect your valuables in one place. If you need a fire-proof safe install one that is large enough that it cannot easily be lifted by one person and make sure it is bolted securely into concrete.

Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to share it with everyone.

Computers, spyware and deleting files.

Your personal computers contain a wealth of your most personal and valuable information as well as a venue for exploitation and theft by savvy criminals. The easiest way for a criminal to steal information off of your computer is to physically steal the computer. Laptops are prime targets for theft and you should never leave one unattended. Never leave them in your car, do not stow them in overhead bins while traveling and when you are at home, store them some place that they are not easily seen.

Also:

  • Secure your computers with passwords that are not easily guessed.
    • It is best to use alphanumeric passwords if you can remember them.
    • Or use an odd sentence that makes sense to you.
    • Keep in mind that the longer your password is, the more characters it contains, the harder it will be to guess.
    • Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords.
  • Make sure that you have good virus protection installed on your computer.
  • Never click on any links in emails or online that you do not recognize or that you are even slightly are unsure about… even if it comes from a friend or family member.

Truly deleting digital files is not as easy as it sounds. You may think that once you delete something from your computer that it is gone forever, but a lot of times that is not the case. Physically destroying old hard drives that you no longer need is the best way to make sure no one will retrieve any of your sensitive data.

We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is! Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are going to cost you a lot more than you think.

Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

Your medical records contain your entire family history as well as your personal contact information. It details your relationships (husband, wife, children, etc.), your sexual behavior, any illnesses, diagnosis, treatments, prescriptions, you name it! Unfortunately even these records aren’t that difficult for a savvy criminal to obtain, especially since medical providers now keep their patient records digitally. You can keep an eye on your records by visiting the Medical Information Bureau’s web site at http://www.mib.com or by calling them at 1-866-692-6901.

Also, always keep an eye on your credit reports. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can obtain your free yearly report by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Never assume that your credit report is accurate! Human beings enter the data into these reports and errors happen. You can also visit http://www.fdic.gov for more information on Consumer Protection.

Never write your full account numbers on your checks when you pay your bills, especially when paying credit card bills, just write in the last four digits of your account number.

When you need to dispose of bills or bank statements – never simply throw them in the trash! Criminals frequently “dumpster dive” for these documents. Shred everything. Everything! Credit card statements, bills, old debit or credit cards, bank statements, old pay stubs, anything of that nature. Cross-cut shredders are very inexpensive and can save you a lot of hassle.

Switch over to paperless billing and statements. Pretty much everyone now-a-days offers paperless statements… banks, credit cards, house-hold billing companies. Having them all delivered to your email inbox instead of your physical address saves paper, postage and also eliminates the possibility of someone stealing your mail.

Do not fill in any personal information that you do not absolutely have to when filling out documents. If the fill-in box states that it is optional – keep it to yourself. If you must fill in something, keep it as brief as possible. For example, don’t fill in your full legal name – use your initials. A lot of junk mail comes from people filling in all of their personal data when they really did not have to.

You can also include your name in the Do Not Call Registry (http://www.donotcall.gov) to cut down on the amount of telemarketers calling you. I suggest adding both your home telephone and cellular numbers to the registry.

Protecting yourself from victimization truly is in your hands. Making small changes in your life and keeping an eye on your assets, your information and your technology can keep you and your family from identity theft or other problems.

We hope we have enlightened and not frightened you. TeCHS serves all of Ventura County, California… and a few of the surrounding cities as well. If we can assist you in any way we can be reached by phone at (800) 669-2022 or online at http://www.ezdigitallife.com.

 

~Your TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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What is a data breach and what to do if you become a victim

There have been numerous news articles lately about large company data breeches. Data breaches can happen at any type of business, whether it’s a local dental clinic or a big online retailer. What does that mean? What can you do if your data has been stolen?
When sensitive records are lost or stolen, your personal information (Social Security number, credit card number, bank account information, etc.) lands in the hands of an identity thief. The thief can then use your information to steal money from your bank account, your credit cards, or to create new accounts in your name… among other things. Your credit score can suffer, as well as leaving you liable for the charges.

What you should know:

-US State laws usually require the breached business to notify affected customers within a certain amount of time.

-The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all have some type of data breach law. Only five US states—Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Colorado—do not.

What to do if you are a victim of a data breach:
If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, or that your sensitive information may be in the wrong hands, here are some tips to help you resolve the matter.

Step 1: Contact the three credit bureaus

By contacting at least one of the three reporting agencies or credit bureaus (Experian®, TransUnion®, or Equifax®), an initial security alert (or fraud alert) can be immediately included in your credit profile to inform creditors to check your identity before approving credit. Keep in mind that an alert may limit your chances of being approved for new credit right away or you may be asked to provide additional proof of identification.

Securing a report from each of the three bureaus is highly recommended if you believe you might be the victim of identity theft or fraud. When you contact a credit bureau regarding your case, you may also request a complimentary credit report. If you alert one of the credit reporting bureaus about the fraudulent activity, the alert will be shared with the other credit reporting companies, so they can update their credit files.

Be sure to keep a record of all phone calls and all documents in connection with resolving this matter in case you need to refer to these items later.

Step 2: Review credit report(s) carefully

Thoroughly review your credit report for suspicious information or activity. Request a copy of your credit report from the credit bureaus. You should also review your billing statements and immediately notify each creditor to dispute what you believe are fraudulent charges. Keep detailed records of your conversations and interactions.

If you’ve identified fraudulent data, keep a list of all the potentially fraudulent information found on your credit report. Any data included that looks unfamiliar, including accounts, credit lines, addresses, and names should be reported.

Step 3: Obtain an Identity Theft Report

An Identity Theft Report will help you get fraudulent information removed from your credit report(s), prevent companies from collecting debts that result from identity theft, and can place an extended fraud alert on your credit profile. An extended fraud alert will last for seven years.

To create an Identity Theft Report, fill out a complaint form on the Federal Trade Commission’s website and print the Identity Theft Affidavit. Use that to file a police report and create your Identity Theft Report. You can also obtain an identity theft report by filing an official report about the identity theft to a federal, state, or other local law enforcement agency.

Step 4: Obtain an extended fraud alert and request removal of fraudulent data from your credit report

After you’ve obtained an Identity Theft Report, contact one of the bureaus again to place an extended fraud alert on your credit profile and have the fraudulent information removed.

After following these steps, it’s important to continue monitoring your credit history regularly. Understanding how identity theft can be detected early and resolved is one of the best things you can do to help protect yourself from the harmful effects of identity theft and identity fraud.

 

~Your TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Three tips to help you stay safe online

Three tips to help you stay safe online

Scammers are constantly increasing their fake emails and calls… Here are three really good ways to protect your identity and information online from criminals, scams, and phishing attempts.

  • Keep a clean machine: Keep all of your software up-to-date (especially operating system updates) on all Internet-connected devices to reduce risk of infection and malware. Check for updates regularly and make sure they are installed.
  • Use a better password: Improve your defenses on accounts by making passwords that you can remember and that are hard to guess. Passwords should use a combination of numbers, capital and lowercase letters and symbols. They should also be different for every account.
  • Passcode protect:  Every device ‒ laptop, tablet or smartphone ‒ should be protected with a passcode or password to prevent unwanted access if it is lost or stolen.

~Your TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age : Part 1 of 3 : Phones and home valuables.

Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age.

Part 1 of 3 : Phones and home valuables.

 

Before I start this article I would like to share a personal experience about fraud and my grandparents.

Last year my grandfather received a phone call from a man who claimed to be a lawyer in Virginia who told him that his grandson was in that state at a wedding, that he got drunk, drove, was arrested and needed $3,000 for bail money. My grandfather did exactly what any other caring family member would – he raced to a Western Union office to send the money.

My grandmother thought it was a bit odd and decided to call me and ask if my brother had travelled out of state to a wedding. He had not. My brother was safe at work in Ventura. I told them to get back in the car and get back over to the Western Union office to put a stop on the wire transfer. Thank goodness they called me in time and got back to the Western Union office in time. We were very fortunate and happened to get their money back.

Very scary!

 

This scam is very common right now and these criminals target grandparents specifically.

 

So how can you protect yourself from crafty digital-age criminals?

Thieves are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. A lot of the technology you use everyday can leave you open for a possible attack. There is no guarantee that anyone’s information is 100% safe, no matter how careful you are, but there are a few small things you can do to reduce your risks of becoming a victim.

 

Phones and home valuables.

When it is possible, try to keep your private conversations private. In order to ensure that private conversations are not being spied on, sensitive conversations should be done in person and in a private location.

Cell phones are less secure than landline telephones and with the right technology your cell phone signal can be intercepted. It is best to keep your cell phone password protected and all of the information backed up. There is quite a lot of personal information stored on your cell phone that you may or may not know about:

  • Your social security number
  • Your full name
  • Your address
  • Your bank account numbers
  • Your credit card numbers
  • Other miscellaneous account numbers

Living in a gated community offers you excellent advantages such as:

  • Secure locked mail boxes
  • Flood lights
  • Controlled entry
  • Security patrols

There are additional safety measures that you can take. Always keep valuables hidden in your home; don’t leave things like jewelry boxes sitting on top of dressers in plain sight. Small portable fire safes are great for keeping your valuables safe from fire… but if a criminal finds one in your home, you saved them the trouble of having to collect your valuables in one place. If you need a fire-proof safe install one that is large enough that it cannot easily be lifted by one person and make sure it is bolted securely into concrete.

Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to share it with everyone.

Next week : Part 2 : Computers, spyware and deleting files.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Social Networking; Be Careful What You Share Online

Ah, the internet.
The “anonymous, I can be whomever I want and no one will ever know” internet.

 photo social-networking-blog.gif

Pretty much everyone now-a-days, from the very young to the very old (and even some people’s pets!), have at least one social networking profile, they are a member of at least one online forum, a blogger or a commenter on blogs and so much more that keeps them commenting and posting all of the intimate details of their lives all over the world wide web. The one thing most people don’t think about is how those posts can affect their real lives.

Somehow everyone seems to think that what they write, especially when using a fake/made-up user name, can’t be traced back to them. The internet is a wide open and easily sifted medium where pretty much anyone with the desire and know-how can find out more information about you than you would ever want them knowing. There are even quite a lot of people out there who are paid very well to find out exactly what you are, or have been, doing online… and they are very, very good at their jobs.

I see people constantly posting detailed things about where they are, whether or not they are at home, how long they will be gone, what their children are doing, what the rest of the family is doing, photos that generally shouldn’t have even been taken of all of the important people in their lives, photos of their houses and cars and finally the most damaging, information and photos of illegal or downright poor judgment activities. All of those drunken college parties can come back to bite you in the butt years later while looking for a job.

So, you have to ask yourself, who is looking at all of this information?

What does any of what you post have to do with life outside of the internet?

How about current or prospective employers?

Maybe you apply for a job and the employer does a quick search and finds out that the person who looked so good on paper (via a resume) they come to find likes to take illegal drugs, drinks heavily, parties on work nights, and generally makes very bad judgment calls in many areas of their lives? Do you think you are going to get that job you applied for? If you already have a job, don’t forget that at least one person at your company is looking over the information you are tossing all over the web.

What about someone who has something against you personally?

You anger a neighbor or ex-friend or ex-lover and they watch your profile for your posts about how much you are enjoying your vacation and that you will be gone for another few days… What about what your kids are posting?

What underage shenanigans are your kids involved in?

The “hide profile” button and other security features are actually quite easily circumvented and whatever you post on the internet is pretty much there forever. The only way to truly get rid of those photos or those posts is for the servers containing that information to be wiped clean or be destroyed. You may click that little “delete” button and feel safe… but I guarantee that information isn’t gone.

Don’t get me wrong, social networking isn’t all bad. If done correctly it can link people, companies and communities for mutually beneficial reasons. Just be smart about what you post online.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Keep Your Personal Information Safe: A Few More Tips

Just a few tips to help protect yourself from identity theft and fraud. Thieves use a variety of methods for obtaining other people’s personal information to exploit for their own purposes. There is no guarantee that anyone’s information is 100% safe, no matter how careful you are, but you can do a lot of small things to reduce your risks of being a victim of fraud.

1.) Never click on links in emails or links on web sites that you don’t know or don’t trust. If you get an email from “your bank” saying you need to log into your account right away for any reason, but you aren’t sure the email is actually coming from your bank then don’t click on any links in that email. Open a new internet browser, type in the URL yourself and then log in to your account and make sure everything is as it should be. If a link doesn’t feel right, don’t click it.

2.) Don’t share your passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers or any other pertinent information with anyone.

3.) Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords, but with the amount of passwords people need now, it’s getting a bit more complicated to keep track of them all without writing them down.

4.) Never write your full account numbers on your checks when you pay your bills, especially when paying credit card bills, just write in the last four digits of your account number.

5.) Keep your credit cards and your passport in RFID communication blocking wallets.

6.) Switch over to paperless billing and statements. Pretty much everyone now-a-days offers paperless statements… banks, credit cards, house-hold billing companies. Having them all delivered to your email inbox instead of your physical address saves paper, postage and also eliminates the possibility of someone stealing your mail.

7.) Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to talk about it.

Basically the gist of everything I’ve written is: be careful with the personal information that you give out.

We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different company websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is. There is nothing free in life. Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are more often than not going to cost you a lot more than you think.
~ K. McMillan-Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Your Digital Life Simplified!

Free Online File Storage : The “Cloud”

Many companies, including Microsoft and Google, offer free online file storage to anyone who wants it. The companies tout the service as a boon to business users who can share information and files with colleagues without having to be limited by email file size restrictions.

With one of these services you can upload all sorts of files to the internet to share with anyone; including text documents, photos, movies, music and zipped archives. The upload then gives you a link that you can email instead of the actual file. It’s all very convenient and easy.

However, just how safe is your information once uploaded? Keeping your data on the web protects you from losing any of it if your computer crashes or is stolen but since it’s all on the web, basically anyone can view and download any file you upload. These remote backup systems are like virtual warehouses that can easily be hacked even with the advanced security features some of these companies use.
CLOUD

 

Also, if the online storage is the only place you have the file saved, you could lose everything in the blink of an eye. Say your online storage company goes under, your account gets hacked or your account gets terminated for some reason… you lose all of those files you had “stored.” So if you use one of these services to store your data make sure to keep backup copies on your local hard drive or burned on CD/DVDs.

This sort of file storage and sharing has been growing more and more popular over the last few years and just may totally replace USB jump drives and other media storage devices of that nature.

So, do you feel comfortable with your data floating around in “the cloud?”

Do you use online storage?

How about online backups?

~ K. McMillan-Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Your Digital Life Simplified!

Social Networking : Be Careful What You Share Online.

 

Ah, the internet.
The “anonymous, I can be whomever I want and no one will ever know” internet.

 

Photobucket

 

Pretty much everyone now-a-days, from the very young to the very old (and even some people’s pets!), have at least one social networking profile, they are a member of at least one online forum, a blogger or a commenter on blogs and so much more that keeps them commenting and posting all of the intimate details of their lives all over the world wide web. The one thing most people don’t think about is how those posts can affect their real lives.

Somehow everyone seems to think that what they write, especially when using a fake/made-up user name, can’t be traced back to them. The internet is a wide open and easily sifted medium where pretty much anyone with the desire and know-how can find out more information about you than you would ever want them knowing. There are even quite a lot of people out there who are paid very well to find out exactly what you are, or have been, doing online… and they are very, very good at their jobs.

I see people constantly posting detailed things about where they are, whether or not they are at home, how long they will be gone, what their children are doing, what the rest of the family is doing, photos that generally shouldn’t have even been taken of all of the important people in their lives, photos of their houses and cars and finally the most damaging, information and photos of illegal or downright poor judgment activities. All of those drunken college parties can come back to bite you in the butt years later while looking for a job.

So, you have to ask yourself, who is looking at all of this information? What does any of what you post have to do with life outside of the internet? How about current or prospective employers? Maybe you apply for a job and the employer does a quick search and finds out that the person who looked so good on paper (via a resume) they come to find likes to take illegal drugs, drinks heavily, parties on work nights, and generally makes very bad judgment calls in many areas of their lives? Do you think you are going to get that job you applied for? If you already have a job, don’t forget that at least one person at your company is looking over the information you are tossing all over the web.

What about someone who has something against you personally? You anger a neighbor or ex-friend or ex-lover and they watch your profile for your posts about how much you are enjoying your vacation and that you will be gone for another few days… What about what your kids are posting? What underage shenanigans are your kids involved in? The “hide profile” button and other security features are actually quite easily circumvented and whatever you post on the internet is pretty much there forever. The only way to truly get rid of those photos or those posts is for the servers containing that information to be wiped clean or be destroyed. You may click that little “delete” button and feel safe… but I guarantee that information isn’t gone.

Don’t get me wrong, social networking isn’t all bad. If done correctly it can link people, companies and communities for mutually beneficial reasons. Just be smart about what you post online.

 

~ K. McMillan-Ralph, TeCHS

~~**~~**~~

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Your Digital Life Simplified!

 

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