How to thwart scammers and tricksters

Have you received emails, online pop-ups or phone calls from scammers masquerading as FBI, IRS, or other seemingly legitimate entities?

In the course of my day-to-day work helping clients navigate the technology world, I realized that there was a great need for education about online safety. As scammers become more sophisticated, it’s important for us to become more vigilant.

Here are some common scams:

  • A pop-up warning you that your computer has been infected and that you must call the number shown immediately.
  • An email or phone call from an IRS agent saying that you owe taxes.
  • An FBI warning that pops up after visiting a certain website or clicking on a link. Below is just one example.2014_07_FBIVIRUSscam
  • An email or phone call from your financial institution requiring that you confirm your details.
  • A very legitimate-looking website that opens up in your browser offering online support. I recently saw – a blacklisted site.
  • Phishing emails that require a login and other details for Turbo Tax, QuickBooks, etc.
  • The old ‘Nigerian letter’ which asks you to help get millions of dollars out of some third world country.
  • These are just a few of the countless scams out there.

These are just a few of the many scams out there.


Trust NOTHING until you have investigated further.

  • The IRS and FBI will NEVER email you or expect you to respond to a pop-up message.
  • NEVER call the phone numbers that appear in the email or pop-up.
  • Do a separate Google search for the phone numbers that appear. You’ll discover that scammers’ phone numbers have already been reported by others.
  • Before forwarding or sharing an email or post, check with Snopes ( to see if it isn’t a hoax or urban legend.
  • When you receive a suspicious call, get their number and tell them you’ll call back. Then do your research. If they pressure you to act ‘now’ assume it’s a scam.
  • Add an extension such as WOT – Web of Trust ( to your browser to help reveal the trustworthiness of a website.
  • If you receive an email from a bank asking you to confirm your details, call the institution or log into your account the way you always do to see if it contains a copy of the email. DO NOT follow the link that appears in the email.
  • When downloading a program from the internet, always go to the company’s own website for the download link. Some sites offer the same downloads but add malware to the installation. Even legitimate sites like Adobe can sneak in an extra program with a download. You can see in the image below how there’s a checkmark to automatically download MacAfee security if you don’t uncheck the box. Always look at every window and uncheck or ‘decline’ other offers.
  • When starting the installation, make sure to read each window to see that there are no extra items being downloaded. Uncheck or ‘decline’ any extras. These often include search toolbars and other malware.
  • When you forward a funny email to your contacts, add their names to the ‘Bcc’ line – not the ‘To’ line and remove all the contacts from within the email message itself. This prevents scammers and spammers from getting hold of all those email addresses.

If you have any more to add to the list, please comment below.