Don’t Fall For Clickbait

3 min read
The online world contains many links that lead to dubious content, scammers or fake news. Learn to spot these.

If you are on the Internet often, you would be familiar with links that bait you to click on them, hence the term ‘clickbait’. Websites make money when people click on links to see more pages. These in turn show more advertisements to make even more money for the website. Clickbait plays to our biases and curiosity to draw us in.

Ever been tempted to take quizzes that go something like “Most seasoned drivers know only 30% of the answers” followed by a series of pictures showing multiple-choice questions? Perhaps you’ve clicked to read sensational news articles such as “Man in viral road rage incident asks public’s help” or “Driver caught kicking another car repeatedly”? More often than not, you will find yourself scrolling through 10–20 pages of information loaded liberally with advertisements. At best, it is an outright waste of time; at worst, it could perpetuate fake news if you start sharing it.

The danger arises with official-looking pop-up alerts that require you to ‘update’ your video player in order to proceed. If your curiosity at this point is bursting, you may click without thinking and get directed to a page that installs malware designed to scan your computer and harvest personal information and other data that can lead to theft of your identity or credit information.

Even if you feel you are too savvy to fall for random clickbait, you may unwittingly be lulled into a false sense of security if a friend shared it. Just imagine coming across this headline “Redeem your $50 voucher from XX petrol if you are over 50!” If you read it in passing, you may dismiss it as a scam; if a friend forwarded it to you on Whatsapp, it would now look like a good tip from a reliable source.

Be a savvier reader and consumer by learning to identify and resist clickbait. Here are some tips:

* Before you click on a link, always scrutinise the weblink to see where it will take you. For example, a website offering you $50 petrol vouchers in Singapore should not have a link that ends with a country domain suffix ‘.ru’, which points to Russia.

* Resist the immediate urge to share sensational news until you have crosschecked various sources to confirm it is not fake news.

* Avoid paying for anything even if it costs just a few cents. It is not worth compromising your personal and credit card information.

* Do not install software from links that randomly pops up. If you really need a software update, check at the website of the official source.

* Beware of clicking on links liked or shared by ‘friends’ — your friend’s account could have been hacked! If you know your friend well, you should be able to discern whether his or her tone is off. If you are really interested, communicating with your friend over the phone or on another digital platform.

* Report suspicious ads or posts if you feel you have been scammed. Most social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have a channel to report scams or posts.