Kim Komando's Q & A: Contacts you initiate are safer

— -- Question:I went online to a bank to buy a CD. Then the bank personnel called me. They verified the information that I entered, but they wanted my Social Security number, age and drivers license number, among other things. I was uncomfortable giving that out, so I canceled the arrangement. Was I being overly cautious?

Answer:You need to be careful how you give out personal information, but you can't be locked down completely. You'd never get anything done. If you're sure you're talking to the bank, I wouldn't see a problem. Trouble could arise if you get e-mail asking for this data. You could be taken to a scam site. If you enter your confidential data there, kiss your money goodbye. There's a crucial difference between the two situations. One you initiated; the other arrived uninvited. I'd feel comfortable with the one you initiated.

Q:I use Windows XP. I don't want to set up user accounts or password-protect my computer. My 12-year-old son is only allowed limited time on the computer. I want him to learn self-control. So, I want to know when he logs on and off. Is there any way to track this?

A:Computer usage is easily monitored in XP. It creates a time-stamped log of programs and services that run. You can use the log to see when the computer is booted. It will also show you when the computer was turned off. The event log runs automatically, so you don't need to enable anything. Also, your son probably won't think about the log. To access event logs, click Start, then Control Panel. Double-click Administrative Tools and double-click Event Viewer. Finally, double-click System. You'll see the event log.

Q:My friend sent some pictures with captions actually in the photos. I cannot get in touch with him. How can I put captions in my photos? What program would I use?

A: I'd recommend using IrfanView. I have a download link at Open the program and click File, then Open. Select a photo and click Open. Click and drag on the photo to create a selection. It'll be outlined with a thin white line. Next, click Edit, then Insert text into the selection. In the box that opens, enter the desired caption. The area behind the text will be transparent. If you want to set a background color, you can. Just de-select "Text is transparent." Click "Set background color." Select a color. Click OK.

Q:I'm getting a lot of spam and it just keeps getting worse. Is there an e-mail program that can stop spam?

A:If I knew how to solve the spam problem, I'd be rich. You're right; it is getting worse and worse. The last I heard, less than 10% of e-mail is legitimate. The rest is junk. All of the free e-mail services have spam filters, but spam always seems to make it through. A few programs can help. Try SpamBayes or MailWasher. Find download links at These programs sit between the e-mail server and your e-mail program. They will filter out spam before it reaches your computer.

Q:I downloaded Internet Explorer 8. Now my computer is all fouled up. My home page is inaccessible. When I go there, the computer crashes. And IE won't let me report the error to Microsoft. What is going on?

A:IE 8 is currently in beta. That means it is still being developed. Some people are having problems with it. Your problem is easily fixed. Get rid of it. In Windows XP, click Start, then Control Panel. Double-click Add or Remove Programs. Find Internet Explorer 8 and click it. Click Remove. In Vista, go to Control Panel. Double-click Programs and Features. In the left panel, click "View installed updates." Select Windows Internet Explorer 8. Click Uninstall. Wait until IE 8 is finalized before trying it again.

E-mail questions to Komando at