Ever click something in email or on the web and right afterward thought, “Boy, that was dumb.” You’re not alone. Every week on my national radio show, I take calls from people just like you who know better but make common tech faux pas.
Sure, I tell people how to find a hidden GPS tracker in their car or how to hide their browsing history from their ISP so they don’t sell their data. But I have noticed a trend of people making fairly common mistakes online that often have devastating results.
Whether you’re a seasoned tech pro or just getting the hang of digital life, look at this list of mistakes people make online, along with do-it-yourself security tips. Knowledge is power, and with today’s surge in online scams and crime, you have to stay vigilant.
Believing in internet luck
I can’t stress this enough. If you get an email asking you to participate in a survey or a pitch for a money-making opportunity that you didn’t sign up for, know that email spam is surging and there are ways to protect yourself.
Instead of just clicking, open a new browser window (Chrome, Safari, Edge or whatever you use) and search for the company name plus the word “scam” or “review.” Chances are if it’s a scam or review, someone else has complained about it.
If the email comes from a seemingly real person, do a quick search for the person’s name plus the company name. Better yet, use your LinkedIn account and search for the person and company. FamilyTreeNow is a pretty good site for looking people up, too.
Disregarding basic security features
Use two-factor authentication (2FA) any time a website or app offers it. Yes, it involves a couple of extra steps when using a new browser or need to reset a password. It’s well worth it. You’ll be protected when someone tries to access your accounts from a device the website doesn’t recognize.
You may have set up 2FA with your Facebook account. If you use a work, public, friend or family’s computer or new device to sign in, Facebook requires you to verify that it’s you, using 2FA.
If you have a Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat or Instagram account, I have the steps you need to take to set up 2FA in one handy article on my site.
Shopping online while drinking
Apparently, drunk shopping is a billion-dollar industry on Amazon. To protect yourself on the off chance this happens to you, set up spending alerts with your bank or credit card company. Most banks and credit cards let you set a dollar amount, and if you go over that amount, you’ll get a text message or email.
Here’s why: When you sober up and check your messages, you’ll have time to cancel your orders.
Wanting to know who you were in a past life
If you are logged into a website and take one of those tempting quizzes like “Find out which Harry Potter house your dog belongs in,” you’re potentially handing over personal information about you.
Most notorious infractions to date of this data mining happened in 2018 with the Cambridge Analytica Facebook breach.
Before you brush this off, know how the quizzes collect your data and sell your data.
When you take these quizzes, you’re helping websites create profiles about you so they can sell your information and target you with ads.
Consider your passwords
Please, in the name of all that’s holy, don’t use a password like “123456,” “abcd1234,” or “password.” I also don’t recommend that you use password formulas that are easy to hack, like “website+birthdate,” as in google1225, adobe1225 or facebook1225.
Picking a fight online
It’s becoming more apparent that people who take breaks from Facebook experience more happiness. Facebook and other social media platforms can bring out the worst in us. People argue and say things that they would never say in person.
If you’re upset, walk away. Take a break. Don’t post while drinking, either. Alcohol and social media don’t play nice together.
If you can’t break up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat or whatever channel monopolizes your time, use common sense. What gets posted, sent by email or text never disappears.
Listen to Kim Komando’s show from 1-4 p.m. Sundays on KRMG am740 or fm102.3. Read her columns or get her newsletters at komando.com.