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Kim's column

Hackers want Google accounts. Give yours this security check now!

Here’s a nightmare scenario: You’re enjoying your hard-earned summer vacation when you realize your phone or laptop is missing.

Beyond the cost of replacing it, you may have lost years of photos and other files — and opened yourself up to some pretty scary consequences. Tap or click for steps to wipe your tech remotely in case this ever happens.

One place you don’t want someone snooping is your inbox. Don’t create folders with names like “Medical documents” or “Tax info.” Tap or click for 10 hidden email features you should be using.

Your Google account is one of the most important things on your devices, especially if you’re a Gmail user. Here’s a simple way to ensure yours doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Just how detailed is data tracking?

Google’s tracking is mainly for its benefit or for companies that pay big money to target you with ads based on your data.

Speaking of, have you ever searched for your name online and seen how many data broker sites your details are floating around on? I get so many requests for steps to remove this info that I started a new series on my website called Opt-Out Tuesday. Each week, we give directions to erase your profile from these sites.

Tap or click here to take back a little of your privacy from sites like BeenVerified, PeopleFinders, SpyFly, and ZabaSearch.

You might not realize how granular that information gets. An advertiser doesn’t only know you’re a mom of three from Florida or a marketing exec who lives in Austin. A dossier on you includes your financial bracket, interests, political leanings, shopping preferences, and much more.

I wanted to know more about this, so I sat down with an advertising CTO and recorded a podcast. Tap or click here to see just how far this data tracking goes.

Data tracking is big business, after all. How big? Alphabet, Google’s parent company, makes about $420,000 every minute. Crazy, right? Not all that money comes from advertising, but it’s the most significant slice of the pie.

Luckily, some of Google’s tracking can help you.

Exclusive limited-time offer: As a special thank you to my readers, I’m giving you a free Windows or Mac guide full of tips, tricks, and great downloads. Claim your free Windows or Mac guide now at my website at Komando.com/FreeGuides.

Check your account activity

I talk to many people who have been scammed­­, and in almost all cases, they didn’t realize something was wrong until it was too late. A friend reaches out to ask, “Hey, what’s up with that weird Facebook message?” or you see emails in your outbox you didn’t send. Or worse, you notice strange charges to your credit card or get a notice about a loan in your name.

However, there are ways to spot bad actors before they can do too much harm. This tip also works for spotting snoops, you know. Is a friend or family member poking around your Google or Gmail account? Here’s a way to find out.

  • Go to google.com/devices. Sign into your account if you aren’t already.
  • Here, you’ll see a list of devices. These are the computers, smartphones, and tablets you are currently signed into or have been signed into within the last 28 days.

You will see the same device multiple times because each session (or instance you logged in) is recorded. That’s nothing to worry about.

Along with your current sessions, you may also see devices that have been inactive for a long time, like an old phone or computer you don’t use anymore. You can sign these devices out remotely.

  • Just click the one you want, then Sign out. This will remove access to your Google account from the device entirely.

You can also use this page to find some connected devices, like Android phones. That’s handy.

  • Click on a device, then select Find device, and you’ll be taken to Google’s Find My Device page.

What happens if you see a computer, phone, tablet, or device you don’t recognize?

  • Click the device and choose Don’t recognize something? or Sign out. Again, this will sign the device out remotely.

Next, you need to protect your account. It’s time to change your password to ensure whoever logged in can’t do so again. Don’t reuse an old password or choose something easy to guess. This is the time to pull out all the stops.

Tap or click for five tips for creating strong passwords. Remembering solid passwords is tough, so a password manager may be your best bet. The nice thing is these programs can do more than remember your logins. Tap or click for hidden uses for your password manager.

Get more tech know-how on The Kim Komando Show, broadcast on 425+ radio stations and available as a podcast. Sign up for Kim’s five-minute, free morning roundup for the latest security breaches and tech news. Need help? Drop your question for Kim here.

Copyright 2023, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved. By clicking the shopping links, you’re supporting my research. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products I believe in.

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