Tech Q&A: Internet gear, Facebook scams, tracking kids' phones and more

Buy or rent Internet gear

Q. I noticed my cable company charges me a monthly fee for my cable modem. It's about to upgrade me to a new one, and I was wondering if it would be cheaper in the long run to just buy it up front. Is that even possible?

A. I always buy my cable modems rather than "rent" them from the cable company. It pays for itself after two years, and you usually keep a modem for four or five. Check with your Internet provider to get a list of compatible modems you can buy at the store or online. Expect to pay around $75. Click here for the exact features your new cable modem needs to operate at the fastest possible speeds.

Facebook scams

Q. A friend of mine put up a post on Facebook saying I could get an iPhone 6 Plus free for filling out a survey. Did I miss a golden opportunity?

A. That's a popular Facebook scam. It asks for sensitive personal information in exchange for a free iPhone, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or whatever else is popular at the moment. Of course, you'll never see the item and scammers will have information they can use to steal your identity or crack your social media accounts. Remember: Never give out information or money in exchange for outrageous promises. Click here for four more scams spreading like fire on Facebook, and how to spot and avoid them.

Track your child's smartphone for free

Q. I'm thinking of giving my son his first smartphone, but I'd like to know what he's doing on it and where he's at. Is that possible?

A. There's a free smartphone app called Phone Tracker that you can install on your son's smartphone. It will let you see his call log, texts, Web activity and location from a Web-based account. It supports up to five gadgets if you have more kids or other people in the house you want to keep tabs on. Of course, Phone Tracker does alert users that it's installed, so your son will know it's there and can probably find a way to turn it off. Click here for spying solutions that can't be detected.

Stop thieves from stealing your tax return

Q. I'm a little freaked out about the stories of thieves filing fake tax returns for people and stealing refunds. I'm still getting my return together, so is there a way to block thieves from filing for me before I get mine in?

A. Last year, there were more than 1 million cases of tax return identity fraud, and scammers got around $5 billion in refunds, so you're right to be worried. In response, the IRS has created the Identity Protection Personal Identification Number. I know, I know; another PIN you have to remember. Still, it beats finding out that crooks have your tax refund. Click here to learn more about the IRS IP PIN, how to get it and some other steps you can take to avoid tax fraud.

Tablet replaces computer

Q. My trusty old computer is dying, and instead of replacing it with a desktop, I was thinking of getting a tablet. What's your opinion?

A. For basic Internet use, email, Facebook, photo and movie viewing, music listening and game playing, a tablet works just fine. Even editing photos and creating documents have come a long way, especially if you have a Bluetooth keyboard. Unless you do hardcore photo or video editing, major writing projects or can't do without a specific Windows program, for example, a tablet is a good bet. You can even get Microsoft Office on your tablet for free. Click here for more about how a tablet can replace your computer, and what you can do if you do need to run Windows programs.

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 Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at