Tech Q&A: Protecting your tax refund, doing a legal background check

How to beat ransomware

Q. I'm super paranoid about getting a ransomware virus that locks up my files and makes me pay to get them back. It happened to my sister and she paid the $500 ransom! Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

A. Avoid clicking links or downloading attachments in unsolicited email; that's how many people get viruses. Install good security software to watch your back, and make sure your browser and operating system have the latest security updates. Get more details on securing your computer, and how to plan ahead so getting a ransomware virus isn't the end of the world.

Buy a TV or wait?

Q. With so much new TV technology out there, should I buy now or wait?

A. It's usually a good idea to wait while prices on new technology come down, and TVs with 4K and OLED are finally at reasonable levels. Even better, they've pushed HD TVs to absurdly low prices. You can find 55-inch HDTVs for under $500 and 50-inch 4K models for under $650. Learn about these TVs and more good buys right now.

How to do a legal background check

Q. I run a small business and I want to background check a potential employee. What do I need to know?

A. If you pay any company for information about your potential employee, such as credit score or criminal record, you have to use a consumer reporting agency to stay on the right side of the law. Get a list of CRAs and ways to get some information for free.

Protect your tax refund

Q. I heard you say on your national radio show that identity thieves are after tax refunds and something about getting an IRS PIN. What's that?

A. For at-risk taxpayers, the IRS can assign an Identity Protection PIN. This is a six-digit number you use when filing taxes to prove that you're you. An ID thief with your Social Security number and name would need your IP PIN as well. Learn if you qualify for an IP PIN and how to get it.

Defragment no more

Q. I got a computer with a solid-state hard drive. Do I still need to defragment it regularly?

A. It's been years since computer users have had to think about defragmenting any drive, thanks to Windows' built-in defragging tool. But for an SSD, defragmenting is not only unnecessary, it shortens the drive's lifespan. Find out more and the truth behind 6 other tech myths you might still believe.

Bonus: Securely store your electronic medical records

Q. I really want full electronic access to my family's medical histories, but I worry about having them hosted by a third party. Is there another option?

A. There are several apps like iBlueButton (Android, Apple; $14.99) that can store your medical records locally on your phone. Your information is easily available, but it can't get lost in a data breach. Learn about two other app options for storing medical records safely.

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