How to Spot Suspicious Links: A Guide for Beginners

Welcome to this beginner’s guide, designed to help you spot and avoid suspicious links. Online scams can be confusing and worrisome, but with a little awareness, you can protect yourself from falling victim to them.

This guide focuses on how to spot suspicious links. Scammers often use deceptive tactics to trick you into clicking on malicious links, but don’t worry; we’ll go over how to identify and avoid them. Additionally, we’ll delve into some strategies to stay safe online, and finally, we’ll guide you on where to report suspicious activities and scams. I’ve also included a Resources section at the end of the article to provide tools and references to check out if you want to dig deeper.

Yellow warning sign with 'Scam Alert' in black letters, stormy skies in background

How to Identify and Avoid Suspicious Links:

Tips on how to spot suspicious links:

Our first step is to understand the basics of identifying and avoiding suspicious links. By mastering these fundamentals, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself while browsing the internet.

1. Pay Attention to Hyphens and Symbols

A common trick scammers use is adding hyphens or symbols in their links. Legitimate websites rarely incorporate these elements into their domain names. So, if you receive an email or message with a link that contains unusual characters, like “,” it should raise a red flag.

2. Double-check Brand Names

Scammers love to exploit popular brands to deceive you. They might use a well-known company’s name in their URL to appear trustworthy. Paying attention to the small things can help keep you safe. For instance, a link like “” may look like it’s related to Amazon, but it’s not the real deal. Double-check the website’s address to ensure it matches the official brand URL.

3. Examine Misspellings and Typos

Scammers often resort to sneaky tactics, such as misspelling words in their URLs. For example, “” or “” might be attempting to mimic Facebook and Google. Always check for any typos or errors in the link before clicking.

4. Verify HTTPS Encryption

Before entering sensitive information on a website, ensure it is secure. Look for “https://” at the beginning of the URL instead of “http://.” The “s” indicates that the connection is encrypted and your data is more protected.

5. Hover Over the Link

A simple but effective way to inspect a link’s authenticity is to hover your mouse pointer over it (without clicking). This will display the actual URL in a tooltip or the status bar of your browser. If the link looks suspicious or different from what was presented, it’s best to avoid clicking it.

6. Don’t Trust Pop-ups

Beware of pop-up ads or messages that prompt you to click on links. Scammers often use these to lure unsuspecting users into malicious websites. Instead of clicking directly on the pop-up, close it using the “X” button in the corner of the window.

7. Be Cautious with Shortened URLs

URL shorteners, like or, can be convenient for sharing links, but they can also hide the destination’s true nature. If you receive a shortened link from an unfamiliar source, consider using a URL expander tool to reveal the full link before opening it.

I am not affiliated with these, but here are a few URL extenders you can check out ( if you want).

Building a Stronger Defense: Strategies to Stay Safe Online

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Now that you’ve gained insights into handling suspicious links let’s broaden our approach to bolstering your overall online security. In this section, we’ll explore practical strategies that you can implement to create a robust defense against various digital threats.

Stay Updated on Scam Techniques

Online scammers constantly evolve tactics, so staying informed about the latest scam techniques is essential. Regularly read about new scams and tricks on reputable websites or subscribe to scam-alert newsletters.

Be Wary of Urgent or Unsolicited Emails

Scammers often send urgent or unsolicited emails claiming you’ve won a prize, inherited money, or need to take immediate action. These are classic tactics to lure victims. Avoid clicking on any links or providing personal information in such emails. Verify the authenticity of the email with the supposed sender through a trusted contact or their official website.

Use Security Software

Ensure you have robust antivirus and anti-malware software installed on your devices. These tools can detect and block malicious links and websites, adding an extra layer of protection against scams.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication for your online accounts. This extra step will make it harder for scammers to gain unauthorized access to your accounts, even if they trick you into clicking on a malicious link.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi for Sensitive Activities

Public Wi-Fi networks are often less secure, making it easier for scammers to intercept data transmitted over these networks. Avoid conducting sensitive activities like online banking or entering personal information when connected to public Wi-Fi.

Research Companies and Websites

Before making any purchases from unfamiliar websites or sharing sensitive information, research the company’s reputation and read reviews from other customers. Stick to well-known and reputable online stores when shopping.

Be Skeptical of “Too Good to Be True” Deals

If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often lure victims with unbelievable deals or discounts. Exercise caution and avoid engaging with such offers.

Report Suspicious Links and Scams

If you come across a suspicious link or suspect you’ve encountered a scam, report it to the appropriate authorities or the website involved. This can help prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.

Educate Others Share your knowledge about online scams with friends and family. Educating others about potential risks and best practices can create a safer online environment for everyone.

Where to Report Suspicious Activities and Scams
Part of a keyboard with a red key in white writing 'Report'

Knowing where to turn is crucial if you encounter any suspicious activities or fall victim to potential scams. This section provides you with a roadmap on where to report such incidents and seek help, ensuring that you play an active role in maintaining a secure online environment.

1. **Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3):** The IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). It accepts complaints related to various internet crimes, including online scams.

2. **Federal Trade Commission (FTC):** The FTC is a U.S. government agency that handles consumer complaints related to various fraudulent activities, including online scams

3. **Your Local Law Enforcement:** If you believe you’ve encountered a scam or cybercrime, you can also contact your local law enforcement agency to report the incident.

4. **Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG):** APWG is an international organization combating phishing and cybercrime.

5. **Your Internet Service Provider (ISP):** Many ISPs have mechanisms to report phishing emails or websites. Check with your provider for specific instructions on how to report suspicious links.

6. **Social Media Platforms:** If you come across a suspicious link or scam on social media, report it directly to the platform. Most social media platforms have reporting mechanisms for such content.

7. **Better Business Bureau (BBB):** The BBB allows consumers to report scams and fraudulent activities to help others avoid similar pitfalls.

8. **Anti-Fraud Organizations:** Depending on your country of residence, other organizations might be dedicated to combating fraud and scams. Look for local or national anti-fraud organizations and government agencies where you can report incidents.


Identifying suspicious links is vital to protect yourself from online scams. Watch out for hyphens, symbols, and misspellings in URLs, and verify HTTPS encryption. Avoid clicking on pop-ups, and be cautious with shortened URLs. Additionally, stay informed about the latest scam techniques, be wary of unsolicited emails, use security software, and enable two-factor authentication. Never conduct sensitive activities on public Wi-Fi, and research companies before sharing information. Report suspicious links and scams to relevant authorities, and educate others to create a safer online environment. Implementing these measures allows you to navigate the internet confidently and safeguard yourself from potential risks.

Empowering yourself with knowledge is the first line of defense against the ever-evolving landscape of online threats; here are some resources you can check out.

VirusTotal : checks suspicious links and files for viruses using 70+ antivirus tools. You get a report on whether the link is safe or not.

Google Safe Browsing : watches out for harmful stuff on websites, like malware and scams. If you’re about to step into a risky site, it gives you a heads-up and explains why.

URLVoid : inspects suspicious links for danger, using 30+ safety checkers, including big names like Google and McAfee. Once done, it gives you a report to tell you whether the link is trustworthy.

ScanURL: looks into suspicious links for threats like viruses and scams. With the help of powerful antivirus tools like Bitdefender and Kaspersky, it figures out if the link is safe or dangerous.

PhishTank: relies on community members to submit and verify suspicious links; it even lets you take a peek at what those sketchy websites look like.

Zscaler: watches over your online activities and keeps an eye out for any hidden dangers. It scans websites and files using advanced technology to ensure they’re safe.

Norton Safe Web: a tool to assess website safety. By scanning a URL or domain, you’ll receive insights about its safety and any potential risks, including whether it’s safe or has known threats.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC provides extensive resources on how to spot and avoid scams, including articles, videos, and infographics. Their guidance can help reinforce the importance of recognizing and reporting suspicious activities. Visit: FTC Consumer Information This website by the National Cyber Security Alliance offers information on online safety, including tips, resources, and educational materials for various audiences. Explore: StaySafeOnline

Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA): CISA provides insights into current cybersecurity threats and offers guidance on best practices to stay secure online. Their “Tips” section covers a wide range of topics. Check out: CISA Cyber Tips

Google Safety Center: Google’s Safety Center offers resources and tips for a safer online experience. It covers securing your accounts, protecting your data, and staying safe on the web. Explore: Google Safety Center

Until next time,  Kerri.

Marketing with Kerri is a site I created to help people navigate through all the Schemes and Scams out there and find their path to success online. I am here to help you; whether you decide to join is up to you. There is no pressure. If you don’t think it’s for you and want to move on, that’s cool too. I want to say thank you for your time and good luck. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Until next time,  Kerri

Founder of  Marketing with Kerri 


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