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Tech tips

2021 in review: Our most popular privacy and security tips

When the clock turned to welcome 2021, hopes were high. Yet the pandemic raged on and we also had to deal with the continuing supply chain squeeze, which exacerbated the year’s many economic rollercoasters.

Whenever disaster strikes, scammers crawl out of the woodwork, turning the latest headlines into money-making schemes. Government agencies always make a popular target for scammers. Tap or click for a phony IRS email making the rounds in the past couple months.

Throughout it all, the Komando team has warned you about the many threats to your privacy and security. We made sure nasty new scamming techniques didn’t take you by surprise. During this year’s craziness, you may have missed some of our most helpful hints, so here’s a list of 2021’s top privacy and security tips.

1. Stop Google from secretly tracking you from place to place

You may not have heard of Significant Locations, but it knows all about you. This iPhone feature is the reason why you automatically get directions to work when you get in your car.

It exists so your phone can learn which places are significant to you so it can personalize its services. This improves Photo Memories and predictive traffic routing, which can be helpful. But if you value your privacy, it’s time to turn it off.

Tap or click here to find — and turn off — the secret map tracking everywhere you go.

2. Watch movies for free

Streaming services can cost an arm and a leg. That’s especially true if you’re stacking up multiple services, like Netflix on top of Hulu, HBO Max, Apple TV+ and more. If you want to put more money in your pocket, there are many free streaming services you can use for movie nights.

Of course, you should watch out for dangerous sites that download malware onto your computer. Since that’s a huge risk, we did the research for you and discovered some safe and reputable ways to stream films for free. You have 13 different sites to choose from.

Tap or click here for the best sites to access free content.

3. Look up anyone’s cellphone number online

Do you constantly deal with robocalls? Do you want to find out who keeps calling you without leaving a voicemail message? Whatever your reason, you have a lot of ways to sleuth out someone’s number.

First, you can try to take the easy route and plug the number into Google. Reverse number searches may help you track down the person behind a number. Of course, that’s not always 100% accurate — and it’s not helpful if you’re trying to find someone’s number.

Luckily, we put together your ultimate guide to finding cellphone numbers on the internet. People-search sites can be pretty helpful, for instance.

Tap or click here for four clever ways to find numbers for anyone online.

4. Never look up these terms on Google

Obviously, there are certain phrases you never want to plug into a search engine. Typing something like “homemade bomb” or “meth dealers near me” could get you into some trouble.

But there are other searches you should avoid for the sake of your privacy. For example, looking up customer service numbers and financial services through Google Search isn’t the best idea. That’s because scammers like to throw up fake sites with contact information that sends you straight to one of their call centers.

On the internet, you can encounter fake apps, coupon codes and all sorts of fake websites. Fall for them and you may download malware that takes over your computer and steals your banking information. That’s why we put together a guide to seven things to never search for on Google.

Tap or click here to avoid Google search scams.

5. Stop your phone from tracking you

There are tons of hidden maps and trackers on your phone. They let you use GPS — and they let advertisers find out where you are so they can send ads for local businesses.

Luckily, there are a few ways to avoid this kind of invasive data collection. For starters, you can tweak your phone’s location settings. Even using a different browser on your phone can make a world of difference.

Tap or click here for eight ways to stop intrusive tracking.

6. Reboot your computer at the right times

Whenever you ask for help with computer problems, you’re bound to hear one piece of advice: “Have you tried turning it off and then on again?” It’s true that rebooting your computer keeps it running smoothly. It clears up memory, stops RAM-gobbling tasks and even fixes peripheral issues.

But you may wonder just how often you need to hit the restart button. Some people say you should do it every day, while others claim you should only do it when necessary. That’s why we put together a guide to answer this commonly-asked question once and for all.

Tap or click here to find out how often to reboot your computer.

7. Improve the pictures and videos you take on your phone

Taking high-quality photos and videos on your smartphone can be tough, so you may be tempted to drop fat wads of cash on expensive gear. Spare your wallet and try a few hidden tricks.

For one, your smartphone has a few little-known features you can take advantage of to improve your pictures and videos. You can just turn on your phone’s 4K video feature.

Tap or click here for five ways to take better pictures and videos than ever before.

8. Delete your search history from social media and your browser

If you want to clear out your web browser history, there are a few ways to get the job done. This has multiple benefits. First off, saved searches can take up valuable space on your hard drive.

Not only that, but clearing your history also gives you more privacy when someone’s borrowing your gadget. They might type in a few words into the search bar and get results from your previous searches. That can be embarrassing if you’ve ever looked up something that looks out of context.

Tap or click to scrub your searches from different social media platforms and browsers.

9. Find out who’s behind the unknown or blocked numbers on your phone

You can’t block spam callers if you can’t see their phone numbers. Luckily, there are a few ways you can find out who’s calling you — even if said call is coming from a blocked or unknown number.

In this article, you’ll learn a few tricks to prevent spam and scam callers from being anonymous. You’ll also earn what “unknown caller” even means, along with how you can block unknown calls on your iPhone.

Tap or click here for a few ways to figure out who’s on the other line.

10. Put a stop to spammy robocalls

A few decades ago, most of us picked up the phone when it rang. Now, few do since it’s most likely to be a robocall spammer. Criminals will set up automated messages posing as IRS agents or other government officials to threaten you into sending them money.

That’s just one of their many schemes. Since there are so many ways robocalls try to trick you, we made a list of defense strategies you can use to pull the plug on these money-hungry bots. Follow these steps to stop bots and spammers from calling you all day long.

Tap or click here for five ways to stop robocalls once and for all.

Stop robocalls once and for all

Robocalls are not only annoying, but they scam Americans out of millions every year. Learn Kim's tricks for stopping them for good in this handy guide.

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