Media literacy is the ability to navigate and decode all of the compound and complex messages we are bombarded with every day through various outlets.  A crucial part of media literacy is the ability to discern between what is safe and what is not.  While the growth of the internet and various technologies have greatly aided in the fight against crime, they have also created new opportunities for criminals to use sneaky, and often innovative, angles and tactics in their efforts.

Photo by: Don Hankins at

Photo by: Don Hankins at

Online scams come in all shapes and sizes, and some are easier to spot than others.  Some involve a lengthy and manipulative interactive plot requiring effort and time, while others consist of one, single, dangerous ‘click.’  Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to utilize when deciding whether an email, link, or onscreen button is a harmless correspondence or a deadly choice.


-Emails from anyone you don’t know and/or a company, product, or service you have had no personal voluntary experience or interactions with
-Emails from companies that you know (such as Target, Bank Of America, etc.) that look too simple or lack links and interactivity or are slightly off from what you are used to or have a suspicious email address attached to them
-Emails from strangers not in your general area (especially not even on your continent!) that request or require any kind of specific response or personal info
-Websites that have limited interactivity and look very basic and/or do not have hyperlinks where links normally would/should be
-Any offer (money/vacation/lottery/product/service/job offer/medication/weight loss/debt relief/etc.) that seems way too good to be true
-Weird characters (either on an email or on a website) or inconsistent styles and fonts across one single email or one site
-Anything that asks for a lot of personal information up front while giving you very little info about them
-Sending money via wire (easy to steal/difficult to trace)
-Cashing any checks that you receive that you weren’t expecting OR cashing a check that is higher than the listed price for an item or service
-Messages and emails from friends and family that don’t typically sound like something that person would say or do
-Anything that requires a service fee up front or a ‘pay-in-advance’ model
-Anyone calling or messaging you offering a ‘free security scan’ or ‘free technical support’ when you have not directly requested it or noticed any problem on your own
-Someone on a dating site who: asks for too much personal info up front, gets way too close way too quickly, claims to want to visit but keeps being ‘held up’ by an ever-rotating list of excuses, asks you for any kind of money before you have even met them in person


-Virus protection software (not always great, but good to have the extra layer of protection)
-Update your email settings to improve your SPAM filter
-Think before you click – take a pause to double check and make sure that you want to click a link or an image or an on-screen button before actually doing so
-Always look at who the sender is listed as and if the email address looks legit
-Stick to sites you know and trust and approach any and all new sites with caution
-Guard your personal info (name/address/SS#/passwords/D.O.B./credit card info/etc.) with your life
-Google the suspicious sender/company/website/product/service and see if anyone has had any negative or suspicious interactions
-Use a payment service such as PayPal or Venmo so people can’t see your direct bank or credit card info
-Talk to your doctor first about any type of health or medicinal treatment before taking any kind of action with it
-Do not attempt to cash any check (even one(s) that seems(s) legit) before showing it to a bank employee for verification and never except a check for higher than the expected or selling price
-When chatting with some on a dating site, stick to basic small talk or impersonal info at first (hobbies/likes/dislikes) before taking it to the next step.  If you do decide to meet, do so in a public place the first meet and make sure to tell someone you know where/when you are going and what your plan is
-Always ask questions!

If you have any questions, personal experience with online scams you'd like to discuss, OR if you'd simply like to learn more, please come to our Clicking Trickery Workshop this upcoming Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at 6 PM in the main studio!

AuthorChris Lawn