How to protect your debit card from 'skimmers'
Q. I'm worried about all the ATM machines running on Windows XP, and I've also heard about "skimmers" that can leave my debit card vulnerable. What steps can I take to protect my debit card?
A. Criminals have gotten good at installing "skimmers" over the card reader on an ATM to snag your account data when you swipe your card. Then, a small camera over the ATM keypad records your pin number when you punch it in. Your best defense is to stay away from remote ATMs; get your cash from a teller or an ATM in a restricted-access foyer. You should also hold your hand over the keypad when you enter your PIN. This blocks a camera from seeing what you're doing.
Talk to your bank and see if you can sign up for mobile text alerts. These will alert you to transactions being made with you card.
The best alternative to SiriusXM satellite radio
Q. I'm not happy with my SiriusXM radio subscription anymore. They took down one of my favorite stations! What can I use in the car instead?
A. The best alternative is the Pandora app. Type in an artist from whatever era you wish it will create a custom radio station based on that artist, just for you. You can add other artists and tweak the list in various ways to customize it to a T.
Once the app is downloaded and your station is ready to go, you can run the music through your car radio's auxiliary hookup or Bluetooth.
How to remember your new passwords
Q. I'm in the process of changing all my passwords in the wake of the Heartbleed bug. Are there any tricks you have to remember hard-to-crack passwords?
A. First of all, you want your password to be at least eight characters, numbers, and symbols, and it needs to be hard to crack. Here's my favorite trick: Think up a sentence that means a lot to you. You can use a catch phrase, quote or even a song lyric. I chose a line from one of my favorite songs: "Tramps like us, baby we were born to run." I took the first character from each word to get "tlu,bwwbtr". Not bad, but I made it better. I added some symbols in place of similar letters, and the "to" from the original lyric became a 2. Then, I capitalized a few of the letters to make a strong password that I can easily remember.
You can also use a password manager like KeePass. It keeps your passwords secure, and you only need to remember the one to open it. Plus, it's a local program so you aren't uploading your passwords to the Internet.
Pay one cable bill for two houses
Q. I have a lake house in Indiana, and I'm looking to cut the cord on cable so I'm not paying an additional cable bill there year-round. Should I get an antenna so I can watch local news and football games on Sunday? Or should I look into any of the streaming services?
A. There's LOTS of streaming gadgets to choose from. Take your pick from Roku, Google's Chromecast, Apple TV ... and now Amazon's Kindle FireTV is in the mix. Pair that with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and iTunes and your head can spin. And get an HD antenna, too. But here's another tip some people will be able to take advantage of: Call your cable company and see if they let you stream the cable you pay for to mobile devices. (DirectTV Anywhere and Comcast provide services like this, and others may as well.) Then, when you visit the lake house, you can take the gadget with you, and stream your home cable to your lake house TV.
Protect your smartphone's data
Q. I'm thinking about selling my smartphone so I can spend less on a new one. How do I delete the files off of it like I would on my computer?
A. The easiest way is with a factory reset. This will delete everything on your phone, so make sure the data has transferred to your new phone before you start. To do it on an iPhone, go to Settings >> General >> Reset >> Erase All Content and Settings. Tap "Erase All Content and Settings" and then tap the big red button that pops up.
For Androids, go to Settings >> Personal >> Backup & Reset. (These directions might vary slightly depending on what version of Android you have.) Tap the Factory data reset button. From here, you can delete your gadget's SD card if you want, too. If you need to delete your phone remotely, look into apps like Find My iPhone or Where's my Droid.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.