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Beat the Scammers with a Free Link Checker
With links clickable from emails, Word documents, spreadsheets and even SMS messages, it is important to know exactly where your browser will take you – specifically if the link has come from someone you don’t know. After all, you don’t want to be inputting information on a spoof website, sending your personal details to phishers looking to siphon money from your bank account, do you?
While as a general rule of thumb you shouldn’t click links from strangers, you can make doubly sure with a free link checker.
Available online on a variety of websites, web based link checkers are a great way of confirming the destination of the link you’re about to click, before you actually click it.
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How Does a Web Based Link Checker Work?
Phishing link checkers work by displaying the true URL of the selected link. This is done without opening the web page – instead a portion of the web based link checker website is used to visit the offending website and return its true URL.
For instance you might receive an email which includes a link to www.i-am-scamming-you.com – however this link can be cloaked and disguised as www.ebay.com, or some other recognisable (and therefore trusted) website.
Web based link checkers will display the address www.i-am-scamming-you.com, useful for avoiding both malicious and phishing websites and for marking the offending email as “junk”.
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An Example of a Free Link Checker
One example of a web based link checker is at www.millersmiles.co.uk – this tool cleverly reads the correct URL by asking the user to paste in not the displayed URL but the shortcut, found by right-clicking on a link and selecting Copy Shortcut.
However as useful as phishing link checkers may seem, scammers and spoofers seem to have circumvented these methods of confirmation in recent years.
One other common way to check on the veracity of a link would be to hover your mouse pointer over the link - in later versions of Microsoft Outlook and other updated email clients a small pop-up should display the true address. (Older email apps will display the link in the Status Bar)
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Weaknesses of Phishing Link Checkers
Thanks to advanced scripting methods however, it is now possible to spoof the address shown in the Status Bar, thereby leading unsuspecting surfers to malicious websites usually used to either infect your PC with a virus or to phish for your personal details.
Beyond using the security aspects of your browser (for instance, any information exchange on a website such as Amazon, eBay or a bank will use the https:// secure protocol, so always check your address bar) and installing Windows updates, the only other tool you have is your common sense. Websites for financial or shopping institutions will almost never ask you to change your password or request other information via email.