Is It Safe to Click That Link?

Is it safe to click that short link
Did you receive an email from a friend that contains a short, nondescript link? Maybe you’ve seen a short link like this on Twitter or Facebook.

Ever wonder where a link like the one below will take you?

Is it safe to click that link?

Well, in the above case, it is a very safe link to click because I know that it points to an article about reading your Bible (so when we’re done here go ahead and click the link and do read the article, and your Bible).

There are times you’ll see a shortened link similar to the one above, on a website or in your email. I’ve used these short links before and they usually start with bit.ly or j.mp (my favorite).

When you see these short links you have good reason to be cautious about clicking them.

Link shortening services are very common and very handy. I use them often to make it easier to share long ugly links in email, like when my family or friends want to know which computer or piece of hardware they should purchase. I don’t like sending a monstrously long link in an email, because the link could end up broken and not take them to the right place. So I shorten long links sent in email using a URL shortening service.

Here are a couple of the most common URL shortening services you’ll encounter.

These are handy but with the use of URL shortening becoming more common, there is an increased element of risk involved in clicking those shortened links. One risk is being sent to an inappropriate or offensive website. Another risk is the possibility of being forwarded to a website with less then honorable intentions, such as a site which contains malware.

So what should you do if you receive a shortened link in an email? If it’s from a trusted friend, it’s likely safe to click. But what if it’s in an email your friend forwarded you. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the original email came from or who sent it. Is it safe? Good question.

Thankfully there are a few handy tools on the web that can help you uncover just where that shortened link is pointing.

One such service is untiny.me

Update: longurl.org is an even better option with more robust abilities.

So in the case of the link above, when I copy it and paste it into the form on the untiny.me website I discover what’s behind this short link: j.mp/z7ehvB

Here’s the original link which was shortened: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/read-your-bible-more-and-more

Now we can tell whether this is a link we want to click or not. We know this one is safe. And you do want to click it and go read about Bible reading, right?

So bookmark and use this tool whenever you question whether it’s safe to click that short link.

Was this helpful? Have a question about short links or something related? Ask away in the comments below.

Photo by: Henrique Vicente (Creative Commons)

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