Beware sneaky web addresses

I came across something interesting not too long ago. I can’t remember if it was part of a junk email message or a spam comment on this site. It really doesn’t matter either way.

There was a pitch for some sketchy health/beauty/investment/dating product or service and a shortened URL. I already knew it was a scam or a rip-off, but I was curious to see where that shortened URL led. I copy-and-pasted it at LongURL, which is still a fine tool for checking out a link before you click.

I forget the specific contents of the website. Again, that part doesn’t matter so much for my purposes today. What does matter is the address the shortened URL pointed to: www.cnbc.com-feb-finance.net/[removed]. (By the way: there’s no link to the actual site for a reason).

Look at that address closely; it looks like it points to www.cnbc.com, the mainstream stock market and business news site, but it doesn’t.

The actual domain is “com-feb-finance.net” — you’ve got to look closely to see that what comes after the “com” is not a slash, but a dash.

Most web browsers make detecting this trick relatively easy, since they highlight every website’s domain in some way (with a background color, bold text, etc.). But if you’re using an old web browser like Internet Explorer 6, you may glance at the URL, see “www.cnbc.com” and assume the site is reputable.

So be cautious when visiting a new website. If someone is attempting to deceive you with the URL, you can rest assured their motives are sinister.

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