Doing some little things online now can avoid big problems later

08/16/2013 5:24 PM

08/16/2013 5:24 PM

Life is busy for most of us, and shortcuts are always in demand. Things that cannot be done quickly or easily sometimes can get overlooked.

Then you find that a scammer has compromised an online account, that a defective item you purchased cannot be returned or that a power surge has fried your hard drive and all your files are lost.

Remember that some of those annoying little tasks that you’ve ignored for so long can lead to major headaches later.

Fine print

Many of us never bother to read the warranty on an item purchased.

When the product breaks, it can be dismaying to find that you qualify only for a refurbished item rather than a new one. If you have to return the broken item, you may be responsible for all of the shipping costs.

Those are some of the reasons that consumers should always take the time to read the warranty before making a purchase. Sellers are required to provide the warranty in writing before the purchase of any item above the price of $15.

Some companies or their sales staff may be unaware of this Federal Trade Commission rule. Tell them about it and file a complaint with the FTC and the BBB if they do not comply.

What about all of those lengthy online Terms of Service, privacy policies and disclaimers that we so quickly click through when they pop up on our computer screens?

Carnegie Mellon University has reported that it would take the average American 76 days to read all of the online privacy policies that they encounter in one year, says the website lifehacker.com. Is it any wonder we skip over them?

An attorney who works for eDiscovery told lifehacker.com that you should at least skim through the documents for these answers:

• Will my information be shared with third parties?
• Can I opt out?
• Is there an arbitration process where I give up my right to sue?
• Is there a waiver or release that gives the company the ability to use my content?

Additionally, be sure to read any section that is written in all capital letters.

Cybersecurity

Those pesky passwords can be tempting to leave alone, especially after some time has gone by and you can type them in so quickly and automatically. Why not just use the same ones over and over for all your different accounts?

Experts say that is not smart. Using unique passwords for each of your online accounts can seem like a lot of trouble, but it is necessary.

Hackers know, once they have gotten one of your passwords, how to find your other accounts that use the same one. Changing those passwords – including for your e-mail account – every few months and using separate passwords for separate accounts reduce your risk of discovering your bank account has been emptied by a hacker.

Backing up your computer is one of the most often overlooked security measures you can do. Get an external hard drive and use either Windows Backup or Apple’s Time Machine to back up your files. The process is fairly quick and painless.

If you have been going for an extended period of time without taking this step and you have not experienced a loss of your files through a power surge or some other malfunction, you are on borrowed time. Take the time while things are going smoothly to prepare for such a disaster and save yourself many headaches should a computer failure strike.

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