Doing a background check online
Q. I'm recently divorced and starting to date. I have an inkling that a man I met has been in legal trouble in the past. How can I find out if my gut feelings are true?
A. Aside from asking him, there are other ways. Most public court records are now online. Search Systems has links to state and county sites to look up court records, criminal records, marriage records, birth records, property records and more. Still, you can go farther. Click here to learn how to do a free background check online.
Dealing with a laptop spill
Q. I recently spilled coffee on my laptop's keyboard and fried it. Since I'm a klutz, what should I do if this happens again?
A. Consider picking up an ultra-thin transparent silicon keyboard protector skin for your laptop. It will protect against spills, wear and tear, dirt, food crumbs, bugs and other unwanted stuff. If a spill does occur again, immediately turn the laptop upside down, disconnect the power cord and remove the battery. Let it sit for at least 24 hours so that the coffee can drain and dry. With something sticky like coffee, you may need to remove the keyboard keys to really clean it out. Click here for more details on recovering from a spill.
Ignoring a chatty Kathy
Q. Whenever I get on Facebook, my sister pops up in the Facebook chat window and wants to talk. I love her, but sometimes I just don't have the time. Is there a way to use Facebook without letting her know I'm on?
A. If you're getting unwanted messages through Facebook's Messenger chat system, there's an easy fix. Open your Facebook page and look at the Messenger list on the right side. Click the gear at the bottom and then "Advanced Settings." Here, you can turn off chat for everyone or choose which friends can and can't see when you're online. It's a low-effort way to politely keep people from bothering you. Click here for other handy Facebook tips such as chatting from your desktop, stopping Facebook from tracking you and saving interesting items.
Know where the kids hang out online
Q. I follow my 13-year-old son's account on Facebook, but he doesn't seem to be posting much for all the time he spends on his phone. Is there a site I'm missing that he might be using?
A. Kids are moving off Facebook for this reason, and there are plenty of alternatives. Just about every teen has an Instagram account. The blogging site Tumblr is popular and so are the question-and-answer site Ask.fm and secret-sharing site Whisper. These sites can be dangerous to kids due to inappropriate content and creepy strangers. You need to get on your son's phone to see the sites and apps he's using and what he's posting. Click here for more dangerous sites you should look for while you're doing that.
What is two-step verification?
Q. I was poking around in my Facebook settings and I saw something called Login Approvals. Is that a good thing to turn on?
A. Login Approvals is Facebook's version of two-step verification, also called two-factor authentication. It means that to log into an account from an unknown computer, you need two forms of ID. One is usually your password and the second is a special code sent to your cellphone or another email address. Even if a hacker gets your password, they probably won't have access to your phone or email account to get the special code. Google, Microsoft and many banks offer two-step verification. It's a great first step to take to protect your online accounts. Click here for four more ways to keep your accounts safe from hackers.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.