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check links for malware
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Security & privacy

Worried about a link? Use this test before you click it

Before you click a link, how certain are you that it will take you to the webpage you are expecting? It’s nearly impossible to tell by simply looking at the address, especially when modified with a link shortener.

And criminals know that, so they often hide malicious links ingeniously. The address could seem legitimate, but when you look closer, you might spot some character substitutions, revealing a bogus destination.

Read on to learn how to quickly check a link before you click it so you know whether it’s legitimate or fake.  

Malicious links are everywhere

Links are a cornerstone of being connected online, with many people sending news articles, videos, pictures and memes to others daily. But links are also an integral part of how the internet works.

One problem is a URL’s text isn’t always where the link takes you. Scammers often spoof addresses, making them look legitimate, but they redirect to malicious websites. Link shorteners make this more challenging. That’s when a web address is made shorter through a service.

For the most part, link shorteners are handy and safe. However, scammers use the technology to hide the true destination of links. Typically, if you hover your cursor over a link, a preview of the destination displays in the bottom left corner of your browser.

That isn’t possible with a URL that’s put through a link shortener. You either need to click on the link to see where it goes or play it safe and not click on it at all.

How to check links for malware

Luckily, there is a way that you can see where a link goes without clicking on it. Just as there are services that shorten an address, there are online resources that restore these shortened URLs to their original text.

One of these is, and it’s easy to use. Compatible with links made shorter through Google, Amazon, TinyURL and others, you can check up to 120 links per day.

To safely get the URL without clicking the link, hover your cursor over it and right-click it. In Chrome, you’ll see a menu open with different options. Select Copy link address. Next, go to, paste the text you just copied into the text box, and click Expand. That’s it.

The following page contains a wealth of information on the short and long links. In addition to the original long URL, it displays a screenshot of the page, the title tag and the meta description. At the bottom, it also features links to security advisories for the uncovered link.

Checking links like this before clicking them will help avoid cybersecurity threats. If a link has been shortened to hide its true destination, it might lead to a malicious site. Now you will know.

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