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

December 7, 2009

Our readers are a savvy bunch who aren’t likely to be taken in by an online scam—but we’ve all got those friends and relatives we worry about. Here’s our definitive guide to helping them stay safe online.

Photo from Futurama.

When training your loved ones how to keep themselves safe online, you should remind them of the rule your parents probably taught you: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Using a little common sense goes a long way to realizing that you aren’t going to suddenly win the Spanish National Lottery when you didn’t even know you had a ticket. That said, here’s a few tips that you should share with your less-than-savvy friends and family to help them avoid falling victim to an online scam.

Never, Ever Click a Link to Your Bank or Financial Institution From an Email

Legitimate banks or financial institutions like Paypal will never email you asking you to click a link to verify your information, reset your password, or login to view anything. You should simply create a browser bookmark to your bank, and when you receive an email, use the bookmark or type in the bank name manually into the address bar.

Combined with training your parents to look for the special lock icon in the address bar, this should prevent them from giving away their bank login.

Never Give Out Your Email Password

It’s become a trend in “web 2.0” sites to ask people to invite your friends to join by entering your email address and password into their web site—but this is something you should always avoid. Not only will you most likely end up spamming all of your friends with invite requests, but some sites will keep that information and continue to spam your friends forever. Of course, that is secondary to the fact that all your password reset requests will go to your email address—so if the wrong people get your password, they can access your entire online life. You should simply never give that information out to anybody for any reason.

Use Strong Passwords (and Secret Questions)

If your password is as simple as your spouse’s name, it won’t even matter if you give your email password out, since it can be guessed easily by scammers or hackers trying to get in. You’ll want to make sure to read our guide on how to choose and remember a strong password—but your security lesson doesn’t stop there. The weak link in your email security is those secret questions and answers that most sites ask you to enter to help you reset your password. Even if your password is tough, often your secret question isn’t—so you should make sure to protect your email account with strong secret questions.

Do Not Buy Anything from an Email You Didn’t Ask For

The easiest way scammers get you is by dumping spam in your inbox for everything from cheap watches to fake male-enhancement products—which is not only going to be bogus but probably redundant. The easiest and simplest rule is to never buy anything from an email. Sure, you could probably make an exception for email newsletters from sites you trust, like Amazon, but remember—it’s relatively easy for scammers to pretend they’re Amazon, just like it’s easy for them to pretend they’re your bank. Just make sure that you aren’t buying, or even clicking on, anything from an unsolicited email. (You can always go straight to Amazon and search for the product they’re advertising.)

Watch Out for Job Postings That Look Too Good

If you’re out of work or just looking for a way to make some extra cash on the side, you should be very careful about the jobs posted on online sites like Craigslist, because there are scammers lurking there as well. It’s not that Craigslist isn’t a great place to look for jobs, but you have to be careful. Those jobs that say you can “Make $25+ / hour working from home!” or “Mystery Shopper Needed!” and promise tons of money for almost no work—yeah, they are completely fake.

The biggest thing to avoid is anything involving Western Union, Moneygram, wire transfers, money orders, or dealings with any financial transaction. The scammers will ask you to deposit a check or money order and wire transfer the money back to them—and it’s not until later that you find out it was a forgery. I personally know somebody who was scammed out of $12,000 this way.

Do Not Give Out Your Personal Info or Social Security Number

This should go without saying, but no legitimate site is going to ask you to enter your Social Security number unless you are applying for credit. You should be very careful not to divulge your personal information to anybody online. The same thing goes for sites that ask you to re-enter your personal information, even though in some cases, like your bank, they should already have that information.

Learn to Use a Modern Browser’s Security Features

The latest versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer have enhanced support for checking certificates from trusted web sites—you can click on the lock icon to see all the information about the certificate.

In addition, the latest browser versions maintain a list of phishing and malware sites, and will warn you any time you try and access a known bad site. Internet Explorer makes checking the URL even easier by highlighting the root domain name so you can more easily detect a new phishing site.

Ignore Web Site Popups Saying You Have a Virus

Last Friday half of my day was wasted removing a malware called Advanced Virus Remover from somebody’s PC because they clicked an ad that said they had a virus, and then installed the “recommended” software, which proceeded to hold their computer hostage. These “scareware” viruses are becoming commonplace, and there are so many different names that it’s impossible to keep track of all of them.

The simple solution is to pick a single antivirus app for your loved ones and train them to know exactly which one they have installed. My mom’s PC came pre-installed with Norton Antivirus, and I’ve trained her to ignore any other messages unless they come from Norton—and that if she isn’t sure, she should click the X in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, or even just turn the PC off entirely and restart it. It’s not a perfect solution, and I’d rather have her using Microsoft Security Essentials, but she’s used to it now and it’s a whole lot better than spending a day removing a scareware virus from her computer.

Aren’t sure which antivirus to choose? You’ve chosen your five favorites, and we’ve explained the virtues of the free Microsoft Security Essentials, so the choice is up to you.


Now that you know how to help prevent your parents from scammers, you should sit down and cover these points with them—or at the very least share this article with them. Was there something we forgot to include? Let us know in the comments.

The How-To Geek is tired of dealing with scammers and wishes the government would crack down on them more. His geeky articles can be found daily here on Lifehacker, How-To Geek, and Twitter.

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Processing Meets Max, Max for Live

December 7, 2009

One beauty of Processing is that it’s so portable, thanks to its intelligent, lightweight engineering, its open source nature, and the fact that it’s built on Java. The elegant text-based language for describing interactive visuals therefore can become a part of a workflow in other places. That, in turn, has led people to look for […] http://bit.ly/5nwGaJ

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Pink Floyd’s On The Run, On Sequential Circuits Pro One

December 7, 2009


Pink Floyd Style – Sequential Circuits Pro-One was uploaded by: GCom67
Duration: 279
Rating: http://bit.ly/4xn8hm

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iPhone App Creates Minimal Music Based On Schenkerian Analysis

December 7, 2009


Minimalist Style … Akihiko Matsumoto (2009) iPhone RjDj Sprint Tokyo was uploaded by: akihikotube
Duration: 593
Rating: http://bit.ly/8XpPaU

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Lego MindStorms Dance Music

December 7, 2009


Dance music with MindStorms sounds was uploaded by: organfairy
Duration: 440
Rating: http://bit.ly/5JQz95

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Memory Tapes, Flying Lotus, El-P, HEALTH Remix Atlanta Rappers

December 7, 2009

For nearly a decade now, Adult Swim has brought anime and absurdist humor to stoned college kids everywhere. The Adult Swim folks have also done their share of toe-dipping into the music world, getting behind records like Danger Doom’s The Mouse and the Mask and releasing their own free, downloadable mixtapes like Warm & Scratchy and Definitive Swim.

For the latest free mixtape, Adult Swim has teamed up with Beaterator, Rockstar Games‘ new Timbaland-backed music mixer game. The mix is called ATL RMX, and you can download it today over on the Adult Swim website.

On ATL RMX, various abstract beat-music types like Hudson Mohawke, SALEM, and Dam-Funk (as well as wild cards like HEALTH and Memory Tapes) remix tracks from Atlanta rappers like Young Dro, OJ Da Juiceman, and Playboy Tre. So if you’ve ever wanted to hear Gucci Mane’s playfully blunted drug talk mixed with Flying Lotus’s playfully blunted squiggles, now’s your chance. Also of note: Prefuse 73 chops up Shawty Lo’s horn-funk banger “Dey Know”, and Young Jeezy gets the El-P treatment. Worlds collide!

Spank Rock producer Armani XXXchange’s version of CeeLo’s “Hello Miss” and Dabrye’s take on Good Time Guys’ “Is That You God?” will be available for your own remixing via Beaterator.

Check below for the tracklist.

ATL RMX:

01 Young Jeezy: “I Got This (El-P Remix)”
02 Rich Kids: “Patna Dem (Mad Decent Patna’s Remix by DJA)”
03 Dem Getaway Boyz: “Imma G (Memory Tapes Remix)”
04 Good Time Guys: “Is That You God? (Dabrye Remix)”
05 Young Dro: “Take Off (Michna Remix)”
06 Cee-Lo: “Hello Miss (Armani XXXChange Remix)”
07 Lil Jon: “Give It All You Got [ft. Kee] (Danger Beach Remix)”
08 Gucci Mane: “Photoshoot (Flying Lotus Remix)”
09 Gorilla Zoe: “Lost (Starkey Remix)”
10 Shawty Lo: “Dey Know (Prefuse 73 Remix)”
11 Kollosus: “Breakin‘ Bread (Phaseone Remix)”
12 Pill: “Lookin‘ (Chris Devoe Remix)”
13 B.o.B.: “Satellite (Hudson Mohawke Remix)”
14 Playboy Tre: “Sideways (SALEM Drag Chop Remix)”
15 OJ Da Juiceman: “Good Night [ft. Gucci Mane] (HEALTH Remix)”
16 Lil Jon: “Give It All You Got [ft. Kee] (Drums of Death Remix)”
17 Hollyweerd: “Have You Ever Made Love to a Weerdo? (Dam-Funk Remix)”

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Pet Shop Boys Ready Christmas EP

December 7, 2009

Listening to the famously dour, expressionless vocal from Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant on the great 1985 single Bob Dylan Christmas album, all bets are off. On December 15 (December 14 in the UK), Astralwerks (Parlophone in the UK) will release Christmas, the new EP from the British synthpop originators.

The EP will include a new version of “It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas”, a song from Yes, their last album (and an absolutely true statement if you live in England). Also included: Two versions of the Madness song “My Girl” and a medley of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and the Pet Shop Boys’ own “Domino Dancing”. We’ve got the tracklist below.

Christmas:

01 It Doesn’t Often Snow at Christmas (New Version)
02 My Girl
03 All Over the World (New Version)
04 Viva La Vida/Domino Dancing
05 My Girl (Our House Mix) http://bit.ly/5WbU4X

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Alumni Profile: Brendon Small ’97

December 7, 2009

Two interests that seemed so far apart in college—comedy and music—have come together for Metalocalypse creator Brendon Small. http://bit.ly/83DmJM

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How To Control Gotharman deMOON With BCR2000

December 7, 2009

Meng Qi | Personal Blog: How To Control Gotharman deMOON With BCR2000. The deMOON synthesizer is a very unique digital polysynth made by Gotharman from denmark. I love its sound very much, the sound engine is also deep. But as you can see, the 4 knobs are far from enough for a synth like this. IMO it’s […] http://bit.ly/5k9ZiW

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What Are Your Top Electronic Albums of 2009? (And How Do You Stay Organized?)

December 7, 2009

It’s tough not to miss physical objects, but then, some of you have been buying vinyl. Chicago apartment, photo: Katherine Raz. More background. I have actually grown to appreciate year-end reviews. In grade school and high school, I was on different occasions both a yearbook guy and a newspaper guy (when not focusing energies on how to […] http://bit.ly/8cPE8z

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Peter DeMaria’s shipping container church wins AIA award

December 7, 2009

0PARSONAGE-01.jpg

After their heyday as storage facilities had passed, the warehouse lofts of SoHo sat largely unused in the 1970s, until groups of artists and creatives realized their potential. Here was all this huge, empty space sitting in the middle of downtown Manhattan, and all you needed was a crowbar to get in.

Similarly, the ports of Los Angeles are currently filled with unused shipping containers, victims of the global downturn, stacked empty in parking lots and taking up space.

Architect Peter DeMaria, principal of DeMaria Design, sees something similar to what the SoHo pioneers saw: Raw spatial material. Shipping containers are already fireproof, space-defined, resistant to the elements and sturdy enough to be stacked atop one another. To that end he has incorporated shipping containers into the design of the cash-strapped East L.A. Four Square Church Parsonage’s new building (which was awarded a 2009 American Institute of Architects Design Award):

Budget constraints and design concepts led to the creation of a “hybrid” construction system – a combination of innovative and traditional technologies – that employs recycled ISO Shipping Containers commonly found in every port around the globe, as the primary building block for the building. The containers once destined to wither away, as they do abandoned and in disrepair only blocks away from the project site, are given a new chance at life. Redeployed as a super strong, fireproof, mold resistant and affordable structural system, the containers become a powerful metaphor for parishioners seeking a new beginning.

Fully exposed, the steel corrugated containers serve as the primary enclosure/space for classrooms on the second level along with a Pastor’s living unit and a Teen Drop-In Center. The ground floor Gathering Hall is a communal space that hosts wedding receptions, cultural events, educational presentations and various religious celebrations. This space opens to an outdoor Plaza and the original Church to the east and also opens to the Children’s Sunken Garden, surrounded in bamboo, to the south.

Built to structural standards that exceed conventional wood and steel frame buildings, Peter DeMaria has been developing this cargo container based building system over the past six years.

“The fundamental solutions to our expensive construction cost challenges already exist. We need to look more closely at materials and systems from other industries and explore how they might be modified and/or adapted to meet our construction and architecture needs. Our mission is to develop design processes that leverage existing fabrication systems – these systems have liberated a design palette of innovation for us.

…It is incumbent upon us: 1) to create buildings that amplify environmentally conscious sensibilities, and 2) to employ progressive design as a catalyst to improve business and living conditions.

Next month DeMaria will be sharing the process with the public through the soon-to-open L.A. gallery FIX – Center for Design + Innovation.

(more…) http://bit.ly/6DRDEM

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iMac Light Makes Perfect Bedside Companion

December 7, 2009

Cult of Mac reader Tiago Piccini from Brazil wrote in with yet another idea — following our posts on cat beds and hackintosh holders –  for recycling the shell of a dear, departed iMac. He spent under an hour gutting his non-working iMac, then adding a lamp socket and switch device, powering it with a 40w […]


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Study: Apple Beats Assus As Most Reliable

December 7, 2009

Remember when Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook described netbooks as ‘junky’ at a time PC makers were flooding the market with the low-cost computers? A new reliability survey seems to defend Apple’s decision to avoid entering the netbook arms race. Apple has earned the top spot as most reliable computer maker, dethroning ASUS, creator […]


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