The Dangers of Unknown Links - dummies

By Amy Lupold Bair

Certainly many text ad links that appear on sites aimed at kids are harmless, but potential dangers are associated with kids clicking links. One possibility is that the link is actually part of a phishing scam.

Phishing scams are designed to trick the victim into providing identifying information that can then be used to steal money, steal the user’s identity, or target them for similar fraudulent crimes. These types of links may take you to a page offering a special download or opportunity that will then lead you to turn over your information under false pretenses.

The pages and downloads often claim to be helpful and may target your children by claiming to offer special opportunities or features, when they are really simply trying to steal from you. Phishing links may even take your children to sites that appear to be legitimate favorites but are really copycat sites.

Another potential danger comes in the form of malware. Malware — malicious software — infects your computer to steal information stored on the computer or disrupt the functioning of your computer. Some text link ads cause malware to infect your computer when someone clicks them. Antivirus and antimalware software can help to protect your computer from these dangerous computer viruses.

A third potential danger that results from clicking text link ads is viewing inappropriate content. Sites containing adult content sometimes attempt to trick teen users into visiting their site by purchasing text link ads on sites targeted toward teens and disguising the link to inappropriate content within unrelated keywords.

Popular brand names for kids — things like My Little Pony and Pokemon — are used in the titles of adult content sites as well as in text link ads to trick kids into clicking on these links. Include rules within your Digital Family Policy regarding what to do should your children accidentally navigate to a site with inappropriate content, including rules about future visits to the site containing the inappropriate link.

Discuss phishing scams and malware in relationship to links within website content. Consider including a rule that asks your kids to come to you if they clicked potentially dangerous or damaging links or have approved a potentially dangerous download. You may need to scan your computer to check for potential damage and make repairs.