February 9, 2014 in City

BBB Tip of the Week

 

Shortened URLs, also called shortened hyperlinks or links, are popular in tweets and other social media posts, texts and emails. They save space. But can you trust shortened links?

The risk is that you could encounter malware or a phishing site by clicking on the unknown. Shortened links give scammers and identity thieves an easy way to reach you and your data.

If you aren’t familiar with shortened URLs, here are some examples. The BBB’s Online Complaint System is located at href=”https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started”>https://www.bbb.org /consumer -complaints/file-a- complaint/get-started. When shortened by the following popular URL shorteners, the link becomes:

TinyURL.com: tinyurl.com/cqu5cmv

• Bit.ly: bit.ly/LFdTAV

• Ow.ly: ow.ly/tcRBO

• Goo.gl: goo.gl/0sBBRz

• Tiny.cc: tiny.cc/wxmoax

You can see the appeal of shaving off the character length of a long link. But before clicking a shortened link, you should consider the source. Do you know and trust the source? Scammers will often attempt to mimic well-known brands and celebrities. Also, remember that accounts can be hacked, including those of family and friends. So even if you trust the source, you should take precautions before clicking that unknown link.

A shortened link usually doesn’t indicate where it leads. The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to reveal the destination of shortened hyperlinks:

• Use a URL expander website to see the full, original link, such as LongURL.com, Untiny.com, and unFurlr.com. There are many options to explore and some, like CheckShortURL.com, offer the ability to check the expanded link for malware.

• Install a browser plugin that checks shortened URLs without having to navigate to an expander website.

• Use the preview option from the URL shortener. For Goo.gl and Bit.ly, simply add a plus sign at the end of the shortened URL. For TinyURL, add the word “preview” with a dot before the shortened URL.

• If you are creating shortened URLs, consider using a service that checks for malware and only shortens safe Web pages. Safe.mn and Mcaf.ee both offer this type of service.

With some diligence and by using the available tools, you can stay safe online. For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB at www.bbb.org or call (509) 455-4200.

Erin T. Dodge,

BBB editor

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