Anyone who’s ever marketed on Amazon will tell you that the company’s model is to “make more popular what’s already popular.” In that same vein, trouble seems to have a knack for compounding itself in the midst of turmoil. For instance, you’re juggling three balls in the air when a text message or email comes in. You know it’s a scam and you’re ready to delete it when—oops—you clicked the link. What now?
The good news is, not much—depending on what you do next.
If the link takes you to a phishing website (a place where they’re trying to gather your personal information), just closing your browser is the safest and most effective way to avoid becoming a victim. If you’re good at reading URLs, you can check your browser’s address bar to see if you recognize the site. However, why take the chance? The phishermen are sneaky and will make their URLs look almost exactly the same as the real deal. Your best bet? Do not click any links while you’re on that site, even if the website looks legit. You can always get to the real site later by entering the URL yourself.
The malware option
If the link has taken you to a site where malware will be downloaded when you click a link—or perhaps even automatically when you arrive at the site—things get trickier. Hopefully, your operating system will recognize the fact that someone, somewhere wants to download a file to your computer and execute that file. If all goes according to design, you’ll get a message asking you to authorize the installation or execution of the file. The solution? Just say no. Then, find the file in your downloads and delete it.
Don’t trust, but still verify
In most cases, clicking that bogus link in an email or text message won’t be the end of the world. However, it’s always a good idea to run a full virus and malware scan of your machine after the mishap to be sure you didn’t get something you really didn’t want.