How Kids Can Spot Fake Emails and Websites
Phishing emails and fake websites are designed to get people to provide personal information that helps scammers to steal money or identities. Here’s what your child should know about identifying malicious emails and fake websites.
How To Spot a Fake Website
Always be cautious when navigating to a company website through a third-party link. Some easy ways to spot fake websites include:
A lookalike domain name. Scammers often use fake domain names (the part of the URL that contains a company name). If the company name is misspelled in the URL or has missing or extra characters, it’s likely fake.
Bad design. Familiarize yourself with the fonts, colors, and layouts of your favorite websites. Fake websites are often bad copies with unusual colors, misshapen logos, or emojis.
No physical address. Legitimate websites will list a physical address on their main landing page. A fake website won’t, or may contain a fake address.
How To Spot Fake Emails
One good way to identify a phishing email is to pay attention to the message itself. Watch out for the following red flags:
Spelling and grammar mistakes. Scammers usually aren’t very good writers, and their messages are usually full of spelling and grammar mistakes. When in doubt, your child should ask for your help (and pay attention in their language arts classes)!
Attachments and links. Be wary of email links and attachments from anyone you don’t know. Never click on links or open attachments without making sure they are from a legitimate source first.
A request to act now. Many phishing emails will urge you to act immediately. Tell your child that this is a major warning sign and that they should never reply to this kind of email; have them show it to you.
You can also use the sender’s email address to determine if they might be a scammer. Here’s how to spot a fake email address:
Public domain or personal email address. If an email is from an official company employee, their email address won’t be a personal one, like a Yahoo or Gmail address. Check that the sender’s address contains a company name in the domain (after the @ symbol).
Misspelled company name in the address. Next, check that the company name and domain are spelled correctly by looking up the company in a separate internet search. Be sure that the sender’s address doesn’t have missing or extra letters, numbers, or other characters.
Email address and company name that don’t match. Even if the sender’s email address isn’t a personal one, make sure that it matches the company name referenced in the message. If the subject line contains a legitimate company name in a strange font, or the sender’s email address doesn’t match the company name, it’s likely a phishing scam email.
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“BBB TIP: How to Identify a Fake Website.” International Association of Better Business Bureaus, https://www.bbb.org/all/spot-a-scam/how-to-identify-a-fake-website.
Irwin, Luke. “5 Ways to Detect a Phishing Email: With Examples.” IT Governance UK Blog, 18 Nov. 2022, https://www.itgovernance.co.uk/blog/5-ways-to-detect-a-phishing-email.