Computers

Tech Q&A: Running a background check, avoiding cell phone contracts

Illustration picture.

Illustration picture.

Q: I heard that I could set up my own online store for products that someone else is selling on Amazon. Is that a real thing?

A: You are probably talking about the Amazon Associates program. You sign up for the program, you create a blog or website, and then you help market products sold on Amazon. It’s free to join, and you make a percentage of the final sale. Ideally, you will vet the products that are being sold. My son recently purchased a pair of counterfeit sneakers on Amazon. Be careful selecting products to promote. Click here for a list of counterfeit products found for sale on Amazon.

Q: For the past few months, I’ve noticed those “Public Record Search” ads everywhere. I think I live a boring life, but should I be concerned?

A: What these sites do is quickly search and aggregate public records. You can find rap sheets, marriage certificates, previous addresses, and many other bits of information that most folks prefer not to volunteer. Most people have no reason to pay for a subscription, but these sites can be helpful when you’re suspicious of someone you don’t know very well. Before you pay, do your own research. Click here for seven ways to do a free background check online.

Q: I’m a web designer, and I’ve always worked full-time for specific companies. I was thinking of offering my services for a freelance site like Fiverr, but I’m intimidated. Do these really work?

A: Freelancing is adventurous and scary, and the only way to start is to dive in. Keep in mind sites like Fiverr connect contractors and clients who would never have met in years past, and many of the reviews have been good. Provided you have a non-binding contract that permits side-gigs, this could be a fun and lucrative move. But prepare yourself: Freelancing is a lot of work, especially if you’re used to being a full-time employee, and there aren’t many safety nets. Be choosy about your projects; freelancers get taken advantage of all the time. If you do decide to get another full-time position, click here for ten tech skills that are actually worth listing on your resume.

Q: I recently posted a Craigslist ad for my motorcycle. But I’ve been getting all these messages accusing me of being a scammer. What did I do wrong?

A: I would have to see the ad to be sure, but many listings raise red flags, even when they’re legitimate. Just remember that Craigslist is crawling with misleading advertisers, so people are on high alert. If you’re selling something, make sure to have a clear, high-res photograph. Include as much relevant information as you can such as year, make, and model, plus the vehicle’s mileage and the condition. I do not recommend listing your phone number or email address, but make sure the “reply” button is working. Try to imitate a listing for a motorcycle that you would trust. And if you’ve done all these things, remember that Craigslist attracts a lot of trolls, too. Click here for sites to sell your things other than Craigslist.

Q: I finally terminated my contract with a telephone service provider. The experience was miserable and I never want to see another contract. What are my options?

A: Service providers have begun phasing out contracts, which is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, there are no strict rules, no automatic renewals, and no elaborate termination steps. Then again, some people have to buy their expensive smartphones outright, where once they were heavily discounted. Until recently, your only options were to pay in advance with companies like T-Mobile or Cricket. These services have improved considerably in recent years and include a wide range of smartphones, although the services are usually geared toward short-term or low-income customers. The newest trend is for companies to lease expensive phones to their customers. Click here to figure out whether you should buy or rent your next phone.

Have a question you need answered? Click here to email me. Be sure to listen to my show on over 400 stations in the USA. Click here to find your local radio station.

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Learn about all the latest technology 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.