Tech tip: 3 steps to make your (or a family member’s) phone safer

When it comes to tech questions, I’ve gotten them all. More than ever, I’m hearing from people inundated with requests from older family members to fix their devices.

Maybe they clicked a bad link, and their computer is acting up. Tap or click for eight signs it’s infected with malware or other malicious software.

The problem may be more mundane, like text too small to read. A few taps in the settings menu will make their life much easier. Tap or click here to make text larger on a phone, tablet, or computer.

Presents are great, but here’s a gift that will last your loved one all year: A phone privacy and security tune-up. Do it this holiday season.


1. Turn on emergency and health settings

A smartphone can save your life if it’s set up correctly. It’s critical to set this up in 

In the case of a health event, emergency responders can access the iPhone Health app — even if the phone is locked. Add details like your — or your loved one’s — name, age, medical conditions, allergies, and emergency contacts to give first responders more information.

How to set up emergency settings on an iPhone

When first opening the Health app on an iPhone, you’re prompted to enter basic health information. You can always go back to update Health Details. Image from

Hang onto your phone number. (iStock)

Hang onto your phone number. (iStock)

After you fill out the Health Details section, it’s time to set up the Medical ID. 

  • Open the iPhone Health app, then tap the profile picture.
  • Select Medical ID > Get Started or Edit. Enter any health information.
  • Tap Emergency Contact and add a trusted person’s information.
  • Tap Done.

One more step: Allow emergency services to access the Medical ID even when the phone’s screen is locked. Here’s what to do:

  • Open the Health app and tap the profile picture.
  • Tap Medical ID > Edit.
  • In the Emergency Access section, slide the toggles next to Show When Locked and Share During Emergency Call to the right to enable.

Now, first responders will be able to see important medical information. 


How to set up emergency settings on an Android

If you or your loved one has an Android phone, follow these steps. Note that steps vary depending on what phone you’re using.

  • Go to Settings > Safety & emergency.
  • Select Medical Information to enter details like name, blood type, allergies, and medications.
  • At the bottom of the screen, toggle this setting on: To help in an emergency, people can view this info without unlocking your device.

Finally, set up Emergency Contacts. Just go to Safety & Emergency settings > Emergency Contacts > Add Contact. 

Here are a few more ways to share medical information on your Android in an emergency.

2. Make sure there’s always a backup in place

London, UK - July 30, 2018: The buttons of Telegram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Messages and other apps on the screen of an iPhone.

London, UK – July 30, 2018: The buttons of Telegram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Messages and other apps on the screen of an iPhone.

A stolen or broken phone means you or your loved one could lose everything in an instant. That’s why automated backups are so important. 

I heard from one woman who lost text messages with her husband after he passed away. She was heartbroken. Tap or click for easy ways to save texts.

To turn on iCloud data backup on an iPhone:

  • Go to Settings > [name] iCloud > iCloud Drive.
  • Toggle on Sync this iPhone.

You get 5GB of free storage with iCloud. If you need more space, you’ll have to pay 99 cents for 50GB, $2.99 for 200GB, and $9.99 for 2TB.

To set an Android to automatically back up, follow these steps:

  • Open the Google One app.
  • Tap Storage and scroll down to Backup.
  • Tap View > Set up data backup > Manage backup.

You get 15GB of free cloud storage with your Google account. If you need more storage, a Basic Google One plan costs $1.99 monthly and comes with 100GB of storage. A Standard plan costs $2.99 monthly for 200GB, and a Premium plan costs $9.99 and comes with 2TB of storage. 

From there, you can choose your backup settings.

More tech smarts: You can send a text from your computer. Tap or click here for five ways to send a text from your PC.

3. Silence unknown callers

I hear from folks who want to help out their parents or grandparents who have fallen for phone scams. Crooks are smarter than ever before, and once they get someone on the phone, it’s easier than you’d expect to get that person to hand over personal details or money.

This tip will save your relative the headache of dealing with spam. Note: Silence unknown callers means they might miss a legitimate call. In my experience, a real person who needs to reach you will leave a voicemail.

To silence unknown callers on an iPhone:

  • Go to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers.
  • Slide the toggle next to Silence Unknown Callers.

Now, the phone won’t ring when an unknown number calls. It will be silenced, sent to voicemail, or displayed on the Recents list. Incoming calls from familiar numbers will still ring as usual.

You can also hide texts from unknown reminders. Here’s how:

  • Go to Settings > Messages.
  • Slide the toggle next to Filter Unknown Senders.

Here’s how to block calls from unknown callers on an Android phone:

  • First, tap the Phone icon at the bottom of the screen.
  • In the top-right corner, tap the three-dot menu.
  • Select Settings > Blocked Numbers.
  • Slide the toggle next to Block Calls From Unidentified Callers. 
A burner phone can help you avoid calls made by unknown numbers.

A burner phone can help you avoid calls made by unknown numbers.

Arm the vulnerable people in your life with knowledge. Tap or click here to avoid scammers’ most popular tactics to fool older people.

Keep your tech-know going 

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICKBest cheap gifts, airline app tricks, win a $100 Amazon gift card

In 30 minutes, you’ll learn 1: What apps to download before holiday travel, 2: How to add your driver’s license to your phone’s wallet, and 3: How to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”


Get more tech know-how on The Kim Komando Show, broadcast on 425+ radio stations and available as a podcast. Sign up for Kim’s 5-minute free morning roundup for the latest security breaches and tech news. Need help? Drop your question for Kim here.

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