They say that your library card is a key that unlocks the world. Well, so is your web browser! And in this week's episode of Upgrade Your Life, Yahoo! News Becky Worley shows us some online services that can save and retouch your photos, protect your passwords and find your lost money -- all for free.
Keep your accounts from getting hacked
You may not use Sony's PlayStation Network or Qriocity music services. But they both got hacked earlier this year, which goes to show that your accounts aren't always safe even on big-name websites. That means people could have your login name and password without your realizing it. And if you use the same name and password on a hacked site that you do everywhere else, you guessed it ... it's time to change them everywhere.
The best way to keep this from happening is to make sure that you use a different login name and/or password on each website. But if a site that you frequent has already been hacked, you can visit the aptly-named shouldichangemypassword.com to find out if your data got stolen. Enter your login name, and it'll tell you if there are any known security breaches involving it. If so, then yes, you should change your password.
Don't worry, the site has been vetted. It's not a phishing scam; it doesn't even ask for your password, just your user name.
Get free stuff to read on your Kindle
Most Kindle books and magazines cost money; there's even a fee to subscribe to a newspaper on your Kindle. But Delivereads delivers new stuff for you to read on your Kindle for free, articles from publications like NY Mag, Mother Jones and the Atlantic. Just subscribe on delivereads.com and the articles will be "automagically" pushed to your Kindle while it's in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Edit your photos
Even Photoshop Elements, the basic version of Adobe's software, can cost you almost $100. But at aviary.com you can find free online software that does the same things as Photoshop, Illustrator, and even Apple's GarageBand, all on top of the basic photo-editing tools that you need. It's free and easy to use from any web browser, and if you want to learn more advanced techniques their tutorials are waiting to help.
Backup your files and photos
Free backup apps, like Apple's Time Machine and Ubuntu's Deja Dup, come with most PCs and Macs. But what if you want to get to your files on another computer, or make sure you still have them if your house burns down or your computer gets stolen?
That's what free online backup services are for. Box.net lets you store up to 5 GBs worth of small files; Amazon Cloud Drive gives you the same amount of space for files of any size, and any songs you buy from their MP3 store are automatically put into it. Meanwhile, the major computer and OS makers all have their own services; Apple has iCloud, Canonical has Ubuntu One, and Microsoft runs Windows Live Skydrive, which gives up to 25 GBs of space.
Some of these services even have apps for your iPhone or Android smartphone, so you can access your files on the go. Try them out and see which works best for you!
Find out your credit score
You can get a free copy of your credit report once a year, from annualcreditreport.com. That doesn't include your credit score, though, which is what people look at to decide whether or not to loan you money or charge you a huge deposit.
If you want to find out your actual credit score, try quizzle.com or creditsesame.com. Both are legit services, and they're both completely free. They use your credit history to try to sell you financial products like mortgages, though, so be wary.
Get free money
Finally, did you know that the web can help you find hidden treasure? Maybe it's an old savings bond you forgot to cash, a tax return that you never claimed, or a deposit on your electric bill. The government runs a website called treasurydirect.gov that can help you find your lost money, while unclaimed.org represents state level governments. You have to search by state on that site, and you should check each one that you've lived in.
Want to dig even deeper? You can look for lost tax returns on the IRS' site, or get the money you lost when your bank or credit union went under. If you're owed a pension by a company that failed, you can try at one or another government agency that says it can help. And if you've got a 401k plan that you left behind at your last job, unclaimedretirementbenefits.com is your website.
Just click the links, and see what you find!