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Dangers in spam mails

2 minutes reading time
11-17 years
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“Hey – I thought you might like this” is written in the email subject, sender “Julia”. This email seems harmless, but one click is enough and the computer is infected with a virus or private data has been shared involuntarily. We are talking about spam mails. How can you recognize spam and how can you best protect your children from the dangers in unsolicited mail?

Spam, phishing, malware and dialers

Spam mails are unsolicited advertising mails sent en masse. These clog up the e-mail inbox in particular.

Phishing emails are also sent without prompting. These camouflage themselves with reputable-looking, well-known names and logos. They aim to tap into the recipient’s personal data such as passwords, credit card numbers or PINs. Mail addresses of well-known providers such as Paypal or Amazon are often used, requesting links to follow in order to prevent supposed cancellations or to comply with requests for payment.

Malware emails hide their danger in the attachment: it contains viruses or malicious software that can harm your computer when opened.

Spam mails also include so-called dialer programs, better known as chain letters. These ask recipients to forward these chain letters en masse, which puts a strain on email traffic.

Children and the use of e-mail

In the meantime, children and young people also frequently need e-mail addresses to log on to learning platforms or online games, for example. This means that they are also exposed to the dangers of spam mails. Spam emails often exploit the curiosity of their recipients by luring them with bright colors, special offers or alarming warnings.
Legal advertising e-mails, for example, must always contain a link that can be used to unsubscribe from the e-mail distribution list. You should never click on it in spam emails. This only confirms the validity of the email address. Your child would receive even more unwanted spam.

What can parents do preventively against spam?

It can be helpful to discuss with your child how sensitive and vulnerable their own e-mail address is. They should not publish their e-mail address on the Internet, but should provide it as rarely as possible on websites. Create different email addresses for your child, for example, the official school address should not be used for games. Enable virus protection on your computer and all of your child’s devices, as well as spam filtering in their email inbox.
However, these measures do not provide complete protection against spam, so it is important to be able to recognize spam and deal with it properly.

Spam mail check for parents and children

Take the 3-point check of the Federal Office for Information Security with your child on how to handle e-mails. This allows you and your child to quickly check if it is safe to open an email or attachment.

  • Is the sender known or not?
  • Does the subject of the mail make sense or not?
  • Is there a strange attachment?

On the phishing radar of the consumer center you can inform yourself if you discover a strange mail in your child’s mailbox.

What to do if you discover a spam mail in your mailbox?

Explain to your child that he/she should always carefully go through the mails and never open possible spam mails. Instead, check together if it is a spam and then delete the mail immediately.

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