How to understand if a link is SCAM (i.e.: how not to get scammed)

Link scam: You have to keep your eyes open


Scam is an English term that means "cheat" or "scam", in short, a rip-off.

Network security is one of the constantly developed topics in which all companies that operate electronically invest a good part of their revenues.

Proof of this is the numerous updates to your mobile phone or computer, but there is also a huge amount of work behind the scenes of every website.

Those who have WordPress, for example, know that it is necessary, from time to time, to update their installation so as not to find an unknown site instead of their homepage, or worse, to see unwanted messages delivered to their users and customers.

But let's get to the point: what is a link scam?

Links are made up of 2 parts: the linked text, also called hyperlink which is the basis of the World Wide Web. The WWW is in fact based on the HTML protocol, a language used by our browser to graphically translate the contents of our website. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, i.e. "marker language for hypertexts": hypertext is text that contains links that can be to pages, sections, objects.

Here is the example of 3 links

All these links lead to, yet they are displayed with different texts of which one (and only one!) is false.

What is the nature of the scams? What is illusionism and why does it work with us human beings?

I recently watched a television series called “Sneaky Pete” which tells the story of a professional con man. I found it interesting because it explained the essence of scams which can be summarized in 1 word: illusionism. Pete makes people believe he is someone he really isn't, thus gaining the trust of even that person's relatives.

Illusionism works like this: expectations are created that focus attention on some aspects of reality, leaving out all the others.

This is a characteristic of the human race. We are "semantic" beings, that is, we give meaning, which we convey through words, to everything even if we don't want it and this practice requires resources.
Monkeys, for example, are not semantic beings, or at least they are much less so than us. Unlike us, I cannot use what in psychology is called "theory of mind", that is, they cannot imagine what others think and do not use words.

They are still very intelligent animals, but these differences may perhaps explain why this exercise is so simple for a chimpanzee:

The primate can count from 1 to 10 in a flash, remembering where the numbers are once they disappear.

Why does this seem so difficult for a human being?
Perhaps because our attention is much more complex and our mind is not clear of thoughts when it has to do such a simple thing.

I personally couldn't help but keep asking myself "why the hell do I have to do this?" 🙂

And I doubt anyone would be willing to give me a reward high enough to make my mind stop asking that question!

In short: reality always has meanings for us and our mind depends on it.
The scammer knows this and to cheat us he artificially replicates the references that make us believe we are in a certain situation, in a moment in which certain attention is required, thus diverting our attention from everything else.

In the practice of link scams this is possible through text and images.
An example are fake text messages or emails from the Italian post office, in which you are asked to log in for security reasons. These are messages that many Italians are accustomed to and which therefore lower the level of attention to detail.

Another example is that of text messages requesting €1 for the collection of a package, another thing that many are used to (the collection of a package).

A case much closer to us is the one in which our customers receive messages regarding the alleged exhaustion of web hosting space:

That email message contains the cPanel logo and a plausible warning: space is running out.

How can we know if that email is authentic or not? Checking that the linked text leads to an authentic link. By hovering over the link with the mouse, the destination page will appear, as shown in the figure:

Once we open that link we will find ourselves on a cpanel login page which is not ours and which will store the access data that we enter.

In short, no matter how advanced computer security is, it will always be possible for a human being to make another human being believe he is in a different place than he really is, simply by reproducing its characteristics.

So.. keep an eye out and if something doesn't add up, always check the links!

Questions or ideas?

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