Even though I work on the internet every day at Snagajob, I almost fell for a scam while responding to a post for a free toilet on Craigslist. (Hey- toilets are expensive! Anyone who’s read my guide to thrift shopping secrets knows I’ll gladly use an entire bottle of Lysol to save $200.) I was just moments away from clicking on a safe-looking link and ruining my whole day. What saved my computer from surefire virusy doom? Years of internet experience have taught me one behavior:
Research unfamiliar links before you click on them.
No matter how good something looks, you’ve always got the time to check out a link before you click on it. No deal is so sweet (or job opportunity so awesome) that you should risk clicking a link provided by someone you don’t know.
Here’s the email I got – looks innocent enough, right?
The red flags:
- The name in the email doesn’t match the signed name
- The email doesn’t specifically mention the item in the ad
- The email came days after my initial response
What made it look legit?
- Well-written with no spelling or grammar errors
- The URL that was displayed matched the one it was actually sending me to (you can check this by hovering over the link with your mouse)
- The URL leads to a .org – typically non-profit sites
How to decide a link is safe:
- Copy the address and paste it into a search engine. Look for multiple reviews from independent sources that say it’s safe (or not)
- Copy the text from the email and paste it into a search engine. Most phishing emails are multiples sent out to many people, so if it’s a known scam you can find out about it from other people who’ve reported it first
Using Google I found credible sources reported this specific URL for phishing and distributing viruses; in some cases they even quoted the same email I received. Spending two minutes on research saved me a lot of time and stress, and while I may not have scored a free toilet, I do have a virus-free computer.