In the last few days, we’ve had several questions about link shorteners.
- Are short links safe to click?
- If I use a URL shortener in my email, will people click on them?
We’ve all seen them. URL shorteners are used primarily on social media and email newsletters. These are URLs that start with bit.ly or TinyURL or Ow.ly. Others which are less common include is.gd, adf.ly, and bit.do.
In general, people are of two minds about link shorteners aka URL shorteners:
- People like them because you can create a short link that meets Twitter post length requirements and is easy to type in. For example, https://geekforhireinc.com/av/ becomes https://bit.ly/2yFErwj. People also like them for social media because then they can track the number of opens and clicks.
- Or, people don’t like them because you can’t see where the link will take you, and what tracking information is included in the link until you’ve clicked on it.
I’m in the second camp, especially after a call from a customer the other day.
She clicked on an email that was a scam. Of course, she didn’t realize that until after she’d clicked on the link and downloaded the attachment! She’s a Realtor, and the email supposedly came from a Title company. It seemed perfectly reasonable to her that she would be getting an email with a PDF attachment from a Title company. The email looked real. It was convincing. But when she had second thoughts and called the Title company, they hadn’t sent her an email that day. That’s when she called us. Chris remotely accessed her computer and took a look at the PDF file. He couldn’t see anything wrong with it except for a URL near the bottom that started with “bit.ly.” Luckily no one clicked on that link!
I go into a little more depth about shortened links and other things to watch for in my Free Report about Phishing scams.
But there are legitimate uses for link shorteners:
For example, another customer had heard bad things about bit.ly but needed a shorter link. She was having a party and was sending printed invitations. She needed to include a link to a resource, but it was an exceptionally long link. We told her it would be fine to include a bit.ly link so that her friends didn’t have to type in 100+ characters.
I’ve recently heard about a URL shortener that allows you to use your own brand. If you’re a business, using a bit.ly or owl.ly link takes the attention away from your business. Rebrandly lets you use a custom URL so people know that they are going to your trusted site.
If someone you know sends you an email or message on social media with a shortened link, contact them to ask them to send you the full link. If you don’t personally know and trust the person who posted it or sent it to you, don’t click on it!
Please forward this to your friends who click on any link!
Information about Geek For Hire, Inc.
Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PCs for the past eighteen years. Angie’s List and the BBB rate Geek For Hire very highly. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3 support) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.
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