The trick to opening a link safely

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Have you seen clickable links that show the address as followed by some random letters or numbers? Bitly is a legitimate link-shortening service, but you shouldn’t just click on one of them unless you know for sure where it will take you. Here’s how to check it ahead of time.



If you’re not familiar with Bitly, what it does is pretty simple.

Let’s say you want to send someone a link to an article, but the link is one of those URLs that are just ridiculously long, like this:

What you can do is go to and paste in that super-long link, and it comes back with this:

Both of those links go to the same place, but obviously the shorter one is much easier to deal with.

The problem with the short link, however, is that if you didn’t create it,¬†you don’t really know where it will take you. All you see is the “”, so the actual ultimate address is a mystery until you get there. And you know, of course, that you should never click on a link unless you KNOW ahead of time where it will take you. Clicking on blind links is very dangerous. Don’t do it.

But there is a safe way to click on a Bitly link: all you have to do is add a “+” to the end of it (a “plus” sign).

So if you saw the link above –¬† – you wouldn’t just click on it and hope for the best. You would highlight it, then copy and paste it into your web browser’s address bar, and add that “+” to the end. So this is the address you would actually be going to:

When you go to that revised address, you’ll be taken to a preview the Bitly website, where it will show you the ACTUAL link that you’ll be forwarded to, so that you can decide if it’s a legitimate website page you want to visit. In this case, since the final destination is a news article, Bitly also shows you the title for the article:

Bitly preview


I do this “Bitly preview” for every shortened link I’m asked to click on, regardless of who sent it to me or where someone says it’s “supposed” to go. The preview only takes a second and can save you lots of headaches!

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