Ordinarily when you receive a link, you can hover your cursor over the link and a tool-tip will display with the target URL. This allows you to be certain that the link you're clicking is really sending you to that location.
When it comes to e-mail, senders are able to embed a link that points to another target URL. They can even use link cloaking / forwarding services to disguise their link even further.
Because of this, you don't always know where you could be sent when you click on a link. That can be potentially very dangerous.
It's not a difficult task to quickly check a link and see if it's malicious. For starters, you already should know that hovering over a link will display a tool-tip with it's true location.
Beyond that, the nature of the email should really tell you a lot about the intent of the link found within the message. If the email seems suspicious, then the link is most likely suspicious as well. Additionally, you shouldn't even click the link just out of curiosity.
There's also a few simple techniques you can use to recognize if an email might be suspicious. Here's just a brief list that can help you out.
* Any email requesting that you take action on an account or provide personal information via e-mail, may be suspicious and should most times not be trusted.
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* Never click directly on links in an e-mail, hover over them first to check.
* If an e-mail asks you to submit confidential information via another form or an outbound page, this is generally not safe and is a phishing attempt.
* Any time you have a suspicion, you should contact the support team or support desk / contact for the company in question.
* If the e-mail is caught in a spam or trash filter and it looks like it may be coming from a suspicious address (reply-to), then it should be avoided.