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Explainer: How to Identify Fake Website Links or URLs

Paynesville – The threat of opening and sharing links that are created with sinister motives is very dangerous. Opening these links may lead to the hacking of private information like bank account details, access to private conversations and documents, and at worst, someone impersonating to be you.


Report By: Varney Kelvin Sirleaf, Local Voices Liberia Fact Checker


The spread for fake links is fast becoming popular amidst the globalization of digital technology and introduction of online tools and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, TikTok, Snap Chart and many more.

But there are steps that you can take to keep you safe and far away from being a victim of internet scammers who share fake links purporting to be offering opportunities and or free gifts. The following simple steps will keep you on the safe side.


Step 1: The first thing to do when you come across a link whether it is in a WhatsApp group, on Facebook or in a messenger chart is to find out whether the site bearing the link is secured. That is, if the link starts with “https”. Note that most of these fake links do not start with “http”. This is a clue that the site is unsecure. This is the first thing to be wary of when you received a link from a friend or in a group chart, but remember it is not enough to tell if that link is fake or real.


Step 2: Always check the spelling in the links you receive. Many of these fake links are a copy of the original site; the creator of the fake link will copy something that looks very close to the original site of an institution, so a careful look of the link will reveal a slight misspell of the words in the link. If you know that the link for your bank is “uniquebank.com” and you receive a link that says “uniquebannk.com”, check carefully, there is double “n” in the fake link. This means, don’t go any further and know that it is most likely a fake link.


Step 3: The third important thing to look out for is the extra word in the link you receive from friends and loved ones. Scammers do this with the intent of convincing internet users into believing that the site is authentic. Example of an extra word link could be “orangeliberia.org.freegiftshere.com.” We at Local Voices Liberia advise that you be very careful whenever you come across links bearing things such as the example above.


Step 4: Another way to identify a fake link is to contact the business or organization that is offering a particular service. This might take about two to three days or even more, but it is better to wait and be safe than to rush and ruin your bank account or risk losing your private conversations or some very important documents. Don’t open the link, just verify using the company URL and find out whether the company is actually doing what the link says it is offering.

For example, if a link claims that Coco-Cola is giving out free iPhone 13, check the website of Coco-Cola to see if they are actually doing a bonanza. It is only realistic for the company to place that same information about the offer on its website. But if you don’t see anything about the free gifts on the official website, know that the link is fake and it’s a scam.


Step 5: Shorten URLs can also be easily identified. To show the original link of a shorten URL, right click on it, copy the link address, and paste it into a saved word document than will the rightful link of the shorten URL will show up in the word document.

This is not to say a link is fake or not but at least it shows you where the shorten URL takes you. By this you will know whether the link is authentic or not.


Conclusion:

It is clearly the responsibility of all internet users to be vigilant in protecting their personal data and sensitive conversations and documents. By doing this means internet users must threat every link they see with some level of suspicion. Be careful and save yourself from the consequences of a malware (virus) on your device (s) or losing your account details or personal information. Following these simple steps limit the risk of being a victim of online crime.


You may contact us to fact check any claim or information relative to Liberia. Contact us on:
Factcheck.localvoicesliberia@gmail.com
 or  WhatsApp: +231880986778


Local Voices Liberia is a network of dedicated Liberian journalists based in the 15 counties working to lift the development concerns and progress of rural communities.

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