• OWLS

  • Wise words on Privacy

Don’t believe everything you get told online

Key Messages

  • Learn to spot common kinds of scams.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it is!
  • Never click on links in emails from people you don’t know, or when the message looks weird
  • Check for common scams online if you’re not sure

Illustrating the topic

  • Story:
  • Mahe is doing some research for a project on dinosaurs. He has a friend Tania who lives in Canada, near a famous dinosaur museum. He asks her to email him some of the photos that she has taken at the museum. When Mahe checks his email, underneath Tania’s message, he sees an email from “winner@lotto.co.nz” telling him to click the link to collect his prize of $1000.

    Mahe is excited. He clicks on the “Lotto” link. This takes him through to a page asking him to verify his identity so they can pay the prize money into his bank account. Mahe types his full name, home address, phone number, date of birth and bank account number. He clicks “submit” and goes to bed, dreaming of what he’ll do with the $1000 he’s just won.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think Mahe really has won $1000?
  • Who’s got Mahe’s personal information?
  • What could they do with it?
  • What else can happen if you click on a link in an email like this? [downloading viruses]
  • What is a “scam”?
  • What other common kinds of scams are there?
  • Would your bank, or Lotto, or other reputable companies ask you to fill in your personal information like this?
  • What would they do instead?
  • What should you do to keep yourself safe?
  • If you think something might be a scam, what should you do?


  • Research common scam emails.
  • Identify what some of the common traits of scam messages are:
  • offering you money for nothing, like a competition you didn’t enter;
  • bad spelling and grammar;
  • comes from someone you’ve never heard of;
  • contains a weblink that you weren’t expecting;
  • hovering over the weblink or the address in the ‘to’ line reveals that it’s actually linking to somewhere else;
  • even if it looks like it comes from a friend, it doesn’t look like something the friend would actually write.