How to Secure Your Google Accounts, Limit Tracking, and Keep Snoopers Out

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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 faced some pretty chilling consequences. Tap or click on the steps to clear your remote technology in case this happens.

One place you don’t want anyone snooping is your inbox. Do not create folders with names such as “Medical Documents” or “Tax Information”. Tap or click for 10 hidden messaging features you should be using.

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

How detailed is the data tracking?

Google tracking is mostly for their benefit or for companies that pay big bucks to target you with ads based on your data.

Speaking of tracking, have you ever researched your name online and seen how many data broker sites your details are circulating on? I get so many requests for steps to remove this information that I started a new series on my website called Opt-Out Tuesday. Every week we give instructions to remove your profile from these sites.

Tap or click here to grab some of your privacy on sites like BeenVerified, PeopleFinders, SpyFly, and ZabaSearch.

You may not realize how granular this information is. An advertiser doesn’t just know you’re a mother of three from Florida or a marketing executive who lives in Austin. A folder about you includes your financial bracket, interests, political leanings, shopping preferences, and more.

I wanted to learn more about it, so I sat down with an ad tech executive and recorded a podcast. Tap or click here to see how far this data tracking goes.

Data tracking is big business, after all. What size? Alphabet, Google’s parent company, earns around $420,000 per minute. Crazy, right? All this money does not come from advertising, but it is the most important part of the cake.

Luckily, some Google trackers can help.

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

Check your account activity

I talk to a lot of people who have been scammed and in almost every case 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 post? or you see emails in your outbox that you haven’t sent. Or worse, you notice strange charges on your credit card or receive a notice about a loan in your name.

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

• Go to google.com/devices. Log in to your account if you are not already.

• Here you will see a list of devices. These are computers, smartphones and tablets that you are currently logged in to or have been logged in to in the past 28 days.

You’ll see the same device multiple times because each session (or instance you’ve logged into) is saved. There is nothing to worry about.

In addition to your current sessions, you may also see devices that have been inactive for a long time, such as an old phone or a computer that you no longer use. You can disconnect these devices remotely.

• Simply click on the one you want, then Logout. This will completely remove access to your Google account from the device.

You can also use this page to find certain connected devices, such as Android phones. It is convenient.

• Click on a devicethen select Find a device and you will be redirected to the Google Find My Device page.

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

• Click on the device and choose Don’t recognize something? Where Logout. Again, this will disconnect the device remotely.

Next, you need to protect your account. It’s time to change your password to make sure the person who logged in won’t be able to. Don’t reuse an old password or choose something easy to guess. Now is the time to do everything.

Tap or click for five tips for creating strong passwords.

Remembering strong passwords is tough, so a password manager may be your best bet. The good thing is that these programs can do more than remember your credentials. Tap or click for hidden uses of your password manager.

PODCAST CHOICE: Clone dead voices, crypto fraud, hacked hot tubs

Want your dead grandmother to read you a story? If Amazon’s new Alexa AI feature comes to life, you could be cloning dead voices. Plus, hackers are taking over spas, Anna Sorokin is selling non-fungible tokens, and the FBI is warning about crypto fraud on LinkedIn. Oh, and you won’t believe how much money Big Tech companies are making per minute.

Check out my “Kim Komando Today” podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotifyor your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando”.

Discover all the latest technologies 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 his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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