A simple click of a link can’t cause any trouble, right? Wrong. 

It doesn’t matter if you quickly close out of a window. It doesn’t matter if you only take a quick peek and don’t touch anything else while you’re on a risky webpage. Often, just clicking on a single link can compromise your device, online privacy, and even your identity. 

Here’s everything you need to know to steer clear of malicious links and the viruses, malware and other problems that they may contain. 

What Is a Risky Link? 

A risky link is any hyperlink that redirects you to an unexpected webpage. Often, these webpages trick visitors into divulging personal information or the webpages download malicious payloads (viruses, malware, spyware, etc.) onto devices. While they often appear in phishing emails and texts, risky links can pop up anywhere: on social media, in comment sections, or on risky websites. 

What Happens If You Click on a Risky Link? 

A few nasty tricks, viruses, and malware could be lurking behind risky links. All it takes to fall for a cyber scheme is to click on a link. For example, a malicious link could bring you to a fake login page. This is a way for a phisher to steal your username, password, or answers to your security questions. Instead of logging into your bank account or an online shopping account, you’re actually handing your login credentials right to a scammer. From there, they could walk into your accounts, make purchases in your name, or steal your sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) attached to your account. 

If a risky link downloads a virus or malware to your device, the effects could vary. Some viruses bring your device to a crawl and seriously limit your computing power. Mobile malware is a vast category of malicious software and it often makes its way onto devices through infected links. Malware can spy on you, watch your keystrokes, attach your device to a botnet, and overall compromise your device and the information it stores.  

How Do You Steer Clear of Risky Links? 

Avoiding risky links requires that you slow down and think before you click on anything. Scammers and phishers disguise their malicious links to look legitimate making them difficult to spot. Artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT and Bard are making phishing correspondences more believable than attempts from a few years ago. If you move too fast, you could fall for scams that you’d normally sniff out if you were taking your time. 

Here are a few tips that’ll go a long way toward keeping your device and PII out of the hands of cybercriminals. 

  1. Look before you leap. Before clicking on any link, preview it to make sure that it’s redirecting you where you expect it to. To preview a link on mobile, tap and hold the link. Check for typos or for very long and complicated strings of letters and numbers.

  2. Be skeptical. It seems pessimistic, but reserve a tiny bit of skepticism for every “incredible deal!” “unbelievable story!” or “free download!” you encounter online. Just because a “company” advertises on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s a legitimate organization. Its business might not be selling t-shirts but phishing for personal information. Scammers often hide their malicious links behind clickbait.
  3. Avoid risky websites. It makes sense that risky websites are home to risky links. Practice safe downloading practices and be extra diligent about the websites you visit. Avoid pirated content hubs as they’re often a haven of dangerous links. A safe browsing tool like McAfee WebAdvisor can alert you when you’re headed into dodgy territory. 

What Tool Can Give You Peace of Mind? 

McAfee Scam Protection fights malicious links with artificial intelligence-powered proactive alerts and automatic protection. The more you use it, the smarter McAfee Scam Protection becomes. When it detects a scam link in your texts, emails, or on social media, McAfee Scam Protection automatically alerts you to it. Additionally, if you accidentally click on a scam link, the app will block the malicious webpage from loading, protecting your device and online privacy from invaders. 

Confidence in your ability to avoid or block risky links will go a long way toward lessening any unease you have about navigating the conveniences and entertainment the internet offers. 

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