I’ve never been comfortable with the electronic age — the effect of having been born before television. As a consequence, I spend my days being rattled when my computer screen freezes or I get an “undeliverable” message for an email address I know is correct. Dante had a single guide to take him through the underworld; I have 3 guides for the virtual one. The first, monitors my hardware and operating system. The remaining two help me slay the dragons lurking in the world wide web. Frankly, considering the extent of my searches to feed this blog, 3 guides seem hardly enough. That’s why I’ve decided to share information about cheap or free safety systems – a courtesy to readers who grapple with their own electronic demons. It comes from the AARP Bulletin of April 2015, so it must be true. (“Cheap Identity Protection by Sid Kirchheimer, vol. 56 no. 3, pg 23).
Sid Kirchheimer, author of “Cheap Identity Protection” provides 5 free downloads that will stand guard over your software and keep it from harm: Malwarebytes, Panda Free, AVG, Avast and Bitdefender. (Ibid, pg. 23) I use one of these and can testify it’s kept me out of some dark places.
Beyond internal protections, Kirchheimer recommends paying a little extra to your telephone company for an unlisted number. “It should keep you off public-directories used by name-citing scammers calling with feigned ‘official business.’” (Ibid pg. 23.) I’ve been unlisted for years and agree the fee is worth the price.
A long time ago, after reading horror stories about identity theft, I tore up my debit card. But if you can’t live without one, the author suggests prepaid debit cards as they limit your loss liability in case of theft. Note, however, fees for such cards aren’t the same. The article lists those with smaller cost: AMEX serve, Bluebird and Wall mart. (Ibid pg. 23).
Kirshheimer also recommends that you get your head out of the Cloud. Avoid Cloud hackers by attaching an external storage system to your computer. My software guru set me up with one years ago and I have had no complaints. The device I bought cost $40 but the author recommends “a portable encryption-enabled USB thumb drive [that] starts at about $5.” (Ibid pg. 23.)
Check credit reports regularly is another suggestion. Unfortunately, this expert advice is often given but seldom heard by the masses. (Places to check: Equifax, Experian or TransiUion) Another word to the wise is to get a key to your mailbox. Mail theft is an easy way for bad guys to access your personal information.
Happily, following Kirschheimer’s recommendations doesn’t require a large bank account and it may allow you to throw away that Tylenol PM you take to help you sleep — which, you probably shouldn’t do anyway. Tylenol PM has been linked to an increased risk for dementia if used more than 3 years. (“Health Shots” AARB Bulletin of April 2015, vol. 56, no. 3 pg. 15.) Sorry about that last piece of information. I can solve some of your headaches but not all of them.