Spam can be hard to navigate at any age, but especially so for digital natives who tend to be more trusting of their online interactions. While email and messaging providers try to filter junk mail, scammers are getting more clever and their tricks more subtle. Just because a message reaches your inbox doesn’t mean it’s safe.
It’s especially important to teach kids how to identify potentially dangerous emails. In the “Share Spam With Students” lesson plan on her blog Teacher Talk, Alice Keeler asks students to look at everything from spelling to URLs to help identify whether a message is legitimate. To try this digital citizenship activity in your classroom, use Keeler’s checklist of clues and these five questions to get your students thinking more critically:
- Are you familiar with the company or sender? If you’ve never heard of them or their partners and affiliates, be wary. If you don’t know them, they shouldn’t know you and chances are they got your information in a questionable manner.
- Did you sign up to receive messages or updates? If you didn’t opt in by requesting a newsletter or placing an order, you shouldn’t be receiving any communication. If the message isn’t in response to an action you personally took, ignore it.
- Was the message sent to the correct account? If you signed up and have multiple emails or profiles, double check that the messages are being delivered to the account you used to opt in. If not, it’s illegitimate and should considered spam.
- How does the company typically contact you? If you’ve received messages from the sender in the past, think of all the ways they’ve reached out. If you’re suddenly receiving text messages instead of email, or vice versa, think twice.
- Did you recently visit their website or app? If the message seems legitimate, look at your last interaction with the company or sender. If what’s being asked doesn’t seem right based on timing or your previous actions, take a closer look.
- Is the sender’s name spelled correctly? Some spammers will use an account that sounds like a reputable company you may have been in contact with, but with slight spelling differences. Be cautious of accounts like this, and ignore the message if you're not sure if the sender is who they're claiming to be.
When in doubt, don’t click! Conduct a quick search or go directly to the verified website or app to see if the company has issued any scam alerts. Where applicable, companies will share the details of any unauthorized communication being done on their behalf.
Which tips and tricks do you use to determine if a message is legitimate? Share in the comments below!