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4 Holiday Tech Mistakes to Avoid

December 10, 2013 at 4:04 PM

The holidays are a time for family, feasting, fun and — let's face it — stress. The more stressed you are, the more likely it is you'll make mistakes. It could be something minor like forgetting the cranberry sauce, or it could be major like downloading a finance-stealing virus on your computer.

Here are four major tech mistakes people make during the holidays, and how you can avoid them.

1. Using unsecured Wi-Fi

Your family arrives with smartphones, tablets and laptops in tow, and demands to use the Wi-Fi. No problem, until everyone starts having trouble with your super-secure — and hard to type — Wi-Fi password.

So in frustration you decide to just turn off your Wi-Fi security. While your family now has easy access, so do the neighbors and anyone who happens to wander by. That's bad.

Instead, choose a simpler password while your family is in town. Or check your router's manual to see if you can enable a guest network. This is a second network that guests can use while keeping your computers and gadgets safe.

Wi-Fi worries aren't just at home, however. If you're traveling, beware of the free Wi-Fi available in the hotel, restaurants or airport. Who knows what snoopers are on the network with you? Avoid visiting sensitive websites — like your bank — until you get on a secure, private network.

2. Buying an extended warranty

In your rush to buy that special holiday gift, you might buy something you wouldn't normally. I'm talking about an extended warranty.

Extended warranties are almost always a money-loser for the customer. Most gadgets either break within the free factory warranty period or after the extended warranty expires. Here are some more reasons why an extended warranty usually isn't worth the money.

Instead, check with your credit card company. It might automatically extend the factory warranty on things you buy with a certain card. You can also shop around; some stores will extended the factory warranty for free as an incentive to buy.

3. Giving your kids or grandkids unsafe gadgets

A tablet, smartphone, ereader or video game console is on almost every kid's wish list this year. As a loving parent — or grandparent — you decide to oblige.

You'll treasure the look of joy on their little faces when they open their shiny new gadget on Christmas morning! However, if you aren't careful, that can turn to shock when they accidentally load up a video, website or book that isn't age appropriate.

Before you give any gadget to a child, take it out of the packaging a few days in advance and make sure you know how it works. Set any parental controls and be sure you know the rating systems for games and apps.

On the big day, set aside time to chat with your child about the gadget. Establish rules about what they can and can't watch or play. Start them on the road to becoming a responsible digital citizen early.

4. Falling for phishing scams

You've embraced the 21st century and ordered your gifts online this year. Way to go!

But what's this? You have an email from USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL or another carrier saying your packages are delayed! Christmas is ruined!

If the email includes an attachment or link, and you open either, Christmas really will be ruined. The email is a common scam that will download a virus to your computer.

A real shipping email will give you a tracking number and tell you to go to the shipper's website for more information. Don't be fooled by anything else.

Also be on the looking for too-good-to-be-true deals that arrive in your inbox and fake charities asking for donations. Both will sucker you into providing financial information that goes straight to a hacker.

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