Is that suspicious web address a scam, or is his brother-in-law playing a joke on him? The Geek finds out.

Q: My brother-in-law claims that beginning on April 5, 2020, all seniors aged 65 or older are entitled to $750 a week from the government to stay home to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. Is that true or is that one of the scams you wrote about in your last column? He forwarded me a link, but I have been afraid to open it. Thank you.


– Doug C., Niceville


A: I can’t claim to be up on every last program the government has put in place to assist its citizens during the COVID-19 crisis, and certainly not on every scam that the internet scums of the Earth are trying to pull on people. However, I did some online searching, and I couldn’t find anything even close to the entitlement program your brother-in-law is claiming exists. I’m fairly certain that any such deal would be trumpeted loudly by every media outlet, representatives of Congress, and even the President himself, as these people’s political lives hinge on taking credit for the things they do for their constituency. By the way, I know quite a few people in their mid-60s who would take issue at being referred to as a “senior” but that’s another issue altogether.


So while I was virtually certain that the government entitlement was bogus, I was rather intrigued by the link. I congratulate you on being afraid to open it. Carelessly opening unknown weblinks is a major vector for malware infestations. I’m always harping on people to be extremely cautious, and to not trust links, even if they come from someone you know. I’d like to think that being a long-time reader of I.G.T.M. helped you out in this situation, but if not, no matter. The important thing is that you made the right decision to protect yourself and not open it.


There are, however, ways to safely open such links. In many cases it’s not worth the effort, because some of them are such obvious scams that they’re laughable. But for the ones you’re seriously considering opening, there are websites that will open it on your behalf, scan for potential malware traps, and tell you whether they think it is safe to open. One such site, ScanURL.net, says that it uses “reputable 3rd-party services, such as Google Safe Browsing Diagnostic, PhishTank, and Web of Trust (WOT)” to see if a given site has been reported for hosting malware, or if it simply has a bad reputation among places that track such things.


I ran the URL you provided through ScanURL, and it told me the link was “probably safe to visit” (wow, how reassuring!) and that “None of the services we checked with report it as suspicious.” I was also shown a series of comments by other people who had checked the same link, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Ultimately, I put my browser in Private mode and went for it. So, Doug, I think I can safely say your brother-in-law was trying to pull a joke on you. If you visit that site, there is no article, and no extra $750 per month for seniors. There is, however, a picture of a gorilla. Oh, and said gorilla is flipping you his middle finger. Message received! It may be time for you to start plotting a return joke against your bro-in-law. Keep it clean and safe!


Meanwhile, ScanURL is only one of many sites online that can help you determine if such links are safe to visit. I looked around for an article to pass-along that summarizes some of them, and, of course, one was available. So, for more information on checking links for safety, visit TinyURL.com/IGTM-0667. And yes, that link is safe. Check it out if you don’t believe me!


To view additional content, comment on articles, or submit a question of your own, visit my website at ItsGeekToMe.co (not .com!)