Help Your Friends Avoid Online Scams While Insulting Them

Lifehacker has put together a nice guide to avoiding on-line scams that you could share with those people you felt were likely to fall for them — if Lifehacker didn’t make it so obviously insulting by titling it “The Complete Guide to Avoiding Online Scams (for Your Less Savvy Friends and Relatives).”

If they read our email box they would know that really intelligent, lovely people fall for online scams — even the sort of people who read Lifehacker… and Consumerist. Those people are then brave enough to say, “Hey, I fell for this, and I’d like to help stop others from doing the same.”

Despite the unfortunate title, however, the advice is helpful. Have a look.

How do you help people avoid scams?

The Complete Guide to Avoiding Online Scams (for Your Less Savvy Friends and Relatives) [Lifehacker]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Nighthawke says:

    I just promised them I’d beat them over the head with a shovel each time they fell for one…

    And beat them some more.

    So far it’s worked out fine. ^.^

  2. diasdiem says:

    My mom forwarded me an email about a virus email that disguised itself as a online Hallmark card from friends or relatives, and asked if this was for real.

    I promptly replied by sending her a Hallmark e-card saying that no, it probably wasn’t.

  3. barb95 says:

    I just keep my parents away from the internet

  4. katia802 says:

    My dad is forbidden to open any email from anyone he doesn’t know. He’s too quick to click with the mouse and regret it later. He’s otherwise very savvy when it comes to scams.

    • Geekybiker says:

      Set their inbox to whitelist only. Tell them anything that goes to the spam folder should be assumed to be a scam unless you are explicitly expecting it. (aka a receipt from an online purchase)

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I still feel really bad about laughing when my MIL sent us a link about something she wanted to buy, and then got on the phone with Mr. Pi about it. It was about $200 everywhere else, and this site was selling it for $75. And it was so obvious that it was a terrible, terrible website of scamminess. Things were spelled improperly, the url orginated from China, and the images associated with the product were totally photoshopped.

    I tried to bite back the laugh, but it just came out. Mr. Pi shot me this look because she had heard me laugh. But it was just that to people who know what to look for, it just seems so obvious …but to other people, I guess it’s not. I still feel bad about it.

  6. Ciaoenrico says:

    I don’t know that the title would necessarily turn anyone off. My girlfriend is known for screaming, “I don’t want to learn anything new, I just want this damn thing to work” at her computer. She doesn’t care if it’s insulting or not – she just wants the straight dope.

    So insulting or not, I’m sending this thing to everyone I know. It’s a little hair-raising to see some of these things, and realize how unsafe my own behavior has been!

  7. Lauchlin says:

    “Less savvy” isn’t particularly insulting. I mean, if you’re falling for a scam, you’re obviously less savvy than people who don’t fall for them.

    • oneandone says:

      It’s a little insulting, especially when it’s used as a broad generalization about someone. You could be brilliant at most aspects of your life, but still fall for a phishing scam or accidentally install some malware.

      Avoiding these scams requires a specific kind of competancy that many people – generally savvy or not – don’t have. It’s not an overall test of intelligence or sophistication.

      • Lauchlin says:

        Which is probably why they chose the word “savvy” instead of “intelligent” or “sophisticated.” Savvy ≠ intelligent and lovely

        I don’t know anything about cars, and I wouldn’t be insulted if someone said I wasn’t a savvy car shopper. If someone said I wasn’t an intelligent car shopper, I’d probably be a little miffed.

        Would saying “less shrewd” be equally insulting?

        • floraposte says:

          The problem is that a lot of the people who fall for stuff like this think they are savvy and shrewd, so they’re not going to look at anything in the title that suggests they’re below the norm in this area. People who believe they’re cynical and savvy are generally fabulous marks, because they know they wouldn’t believe something that’s really bogus, and they believe this. Why not use something like “Secrets of Scammers” or something that invites in everybody?

          • Rectilinear Propagation says:

            I agree. Even if they aren’t insulted by the ‘less savvy’ bit they’ll just assume that it means that the guide is for people less savvy than themselves and ignore it.

            “Less savvy” may not be rude but it still drives away the people who need to be reading it.

    • DangerMouth says:

      True. They could have titled the article “The Complete Guide to Avoiding Online Scams (for Your Ignorant, Moronic, Cretinous, Imbecilic Friends and Relatives).”

      Considering that all the ‘ – for Dummies’ and Complete Idiots’ guides out there are selling well, I don’t think it’s actually possible to insult consumers’ lack of knowledge anymore.

  8. C. Ogle says:

    I thought my family was pretty savvy on avoiding internet scams, until one day I came home from work and my little girl said “Daddy, Daddy, I won a $1,000 Walmart Gift card from a popup on the internet”. I said, “That’s a scam, just close the window sweetie”. Her response was that Mommy already filled in all of her information to claim it, including her social security number, address and all that.

    I spent the next two hours trying to explain to them what an internet scam was, and how she had just had her identity stolen, followed by putting a fraud alert on her credit account the next day. To make matters worse, she gave out her email address which was now being spammed by, well, everybody.

    Greed makes lots of people give away information online that they usually would never give away to a stranger in person.

    • Traveshamockery says:

      Makes me glad I just have to train my (small town) wife to lock the doors and not open the door to strangers… ;)

  9. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    In one of my college sociology classes, my professor’s husband was a police officer, and he was a member of the police department’s gang taskforce. We were working on a chapter on urban environments, and he came in to talk to us and do a presentation. It was absolutely fascinating to see his photos of walls, light posts, and sidewalks covered in graffiti, and have him go portion by portion, explaining each identifying mark and what it meant. To most of us, it looked like random marks of spray paint, but he looked at a wall of graffiti and could tell you what gangs were there, their dominant symbols, and what kind of shift in power or territory had occurred lately based on what was done.

    Online scams remind me of this. For the savvy, we know what signs to look for, and what identifying marks mean to us, whether it’s that a site that intends to take credit card information, or a phishing e-mail. For the less savvy, they don’t see anything like that, and like walking down a grattifi-covered streeet, they just click right past it, not understanding they’re in gang territory.

    • Lauchlin says:

      I like that analogy.

      I want to watch The Warriors now.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I also like that analogy. I think it should get repeated in these online scam posts so that an articles containing tips for avoiding scams can be tagged “Reading Graffiti” or “In Gang Territory”.

  10. chatterboxwriting says:


  11. quail says:

    When relatives try to use me as their in-house IT fixer, I always steer them to Linux Mint or PC Linux OS. (These are the relatives who do nothing more complicated than browsing the net and emailing old friends.) It saves me hordes of headaches when dealing with their ‘issues’. Oh, and I have them use Firefox or Opera. Both keep an ever growing list of phishing websites at the ready to keep them off of 85% of the phishing sites out there.

    Other than that I just try to tell them, don’t give anyone your personal information on the internet unless you google their website first.

    • hewhoroams says:

      Switching people to linux does almost nothing to stop them from falling prey to online scams. it just means they can’t play minesweeper now.

  12. Sumtron5000 says:

    one word: SNOPES literally has a detailed, well-researched explanation of every urban legend, as well as those whole “Forward this to 6 people and Bill Gates will give you $62!” and “Little Suzy is missing!” scams. Whenever people forward me junk, I always email them the Snopes link pertaining to it (as well as a nice note saying ‘I found this great site that I always check out before forwarding these. It’s sad that we have to be so careful but people out there take advantage of people as nice as you.’)

    Sadly, some people (my mother) still send me emails that are scams, as well as emails warning me of nonexistant scams. Seriously, if are computer-literate enough to click the link and enter the information that gets you scammed, you can manage to click a link and search for a keyword…

  13. humphrmi says:

    So despite my best efforts to educate him, my father in law once opened an email claiming to be from Microsoft offering a Windows update, which he downloaded from a link in the email.

    After rebuilding his system from scratch (fortunately he keeps good backups) he learned his lesson, and is in fact now the most security astute person in my family.

    My dad just called and said that he is seeing weird pop-up messages when he runs a certain program. Sigh. After I rebuild his system, maybe I’ll have my father in law go over and talk to him. :)

  14. jesusofcool says:

    Grandma knows not to click on anything that’s not a major sounding website, to x out all pop ups and not to open emails from anyone she doesn’t know : )
    My Mom’s a little harder because she’s saavy enough to use everything but not enough to know what it means. And she posts a lot of used furniture and stuff Craigslist, which has become a haven for phishing scams and general sketchiness. And she likes stuff that imply free. My solution was to switch her to Firefox and beef up her antivirus software – that’s really all you can do. The worst by far though are teens – they’re constantly on the internet, constantly illegally downloading the newest Kanye album (now comes with the newest virus!) – I’ve had to reinstall Windows close to five times now on my brother’s computer.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Stop fixing it for him.

      Seriously, if he’s OK with busting his system for the 6th time he should be OK with having to fix it himself.

  15. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The thing that gets me most is the naivete. Some people genuinely cannot comprehend that there are people who would release viruses, worms, and trojans because they want to. It’s easy for people to understand that scams are out there to make money off people, and to grab credit card information, but it’s hard for people to understand that there are indeed those who are out there, releasing all sorts of bad stuff, just to do it and see what happens. It’s the naivete that makes it ultimately much more difficult. I suppose it’s nice that they see the best in everyone, but it makes for some difficult discussions.

  16. jayde_drag0n says:

    that picture is effing SCARY.. i was very glad to find out it was photoshopped

  17. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Oooooops. I have clicked on Amazon emails to check out deals. And I should know better!!!

  18. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Just about everyone I know *IS* pretty savvy. The possible exception is my grandmother but she doesn’t use a computer at all. I got my tech savvy from my mother.