Don’t click any email link or web link before asking these questions

Topic: Don’t click any email link or web link before asking these questions

Following a link in an email, text or on certain websites is always a bit of a gamble. On the other end of the link could be the information you want to see, or it could be a malicious website, virus-filled download or inappropriate content.

Of course, we’re talking about phishing attacks. That’s when cybercriminals email, text or post malicious links online hoping to trick victims into clicking them so they can rip them off. These types of attacks have really picked up during the COVID pandemic.

We always recommend not clicking links found in emails or texts unless you’re 100% sure they’re safe. But even links sent from sources you may trust can be malicious now that scammers are great at spoofing. So how do you know when it’s safe to click? There are some important questions you can ask first that will give you a good idea if the link is safe or not.

1. Where did the link come from?

Perhaps the most important question you can ask is how you got the link in the first place. Was it in an unsolicited email or text message? Did you get it in a Google search? Was it in a friend’s Facebook post?

As a rule, if a link is unsolicited, you don’t want to click on it. Hackers send out malicious links in emails and texts daily. They’re especially good at putting links in emails that look like they’re from legitimate companies. If the link is from someone you know, check with them first to make sure they really sent it, and that their account wasn’t hacked.

Links you find for yourself are going to be safer, but you still need to be cautious. A Google search is a good example. Hackers use a tactic called “search engine poisoning” to get malicious links to the top of a Google search for popular words and topics.

The same goes for Facebook. In general, links your friends post are going to be OK, but one of them might have been tricked into sharing a malicious link, or they installed an app that does it for them. Keep reading and we’ll look at some other questions that will help reveal those dangers.

2. Why am I clicking the link?

OK, this question sounds philosophical, but we’re not actually asking “why” you do things in the general metaphysical sense. We’re asking you why you want to click on that particular link.

Is it out of fear that something bad will happen if you don’t? Are you responding to greed or anger? Is it out of lust? These are just a few of the triggers that hackers use to trick you into clicking.

For example, an email might say your bank account has been hacked and you need to click right away and enter your information so the bank can get your money back. Maybe you see a post on Facebook saying you could win the lottery or get a brand new expensive tech gadget for free.

Perhaps it’s a political post that asks you to sign a petition against something that makes you angry. And don’t forget the ever-popular promise of racy images or video on the other side of a link.

If you find yourself on the verge of reacting out of emotion, take a second and really think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. You might realize that you’re being manipulated. And we’re about to tell you how you can know for sure.

Topic Discussed: Don’t click any email link or web link before asking these questions