Consumer advocates always warn not to click links in e-mails, but what happens if you do click the link?
Patrick Siewert did what experts say never to do. He clicked a link in one those malicious phishing emails. "It brought us to a foreign website in Mexico for some sort of spa," he said.
Siewart's a professional, and used a test computer. He doesn't advise you to try this at home. The former Louisa County Sheriff's Detective now has his own company, Professional Digital Forensic Consulting & Services. He did the unscientific test because he was curious. More research on that link that led to a site in Mexico also revealed it originated from Europe. "A domain in the Czech Republic, and I went to the website and it was some sort of wholesale retailer. So what the Mexican Spa and the the email domain from the Czech Republic have to do each other, I don't know," he said.
Siewert says when he clicked the link there were no obvious signs that anything malicious was happening, but he says don't be fooled. While you don't see anything happening, many times crooks are busy working in the background and you will never know it. "It is possible that there could be some malicious code or something like that in there, or even just to track where you go for marketing purposes or something like that," he said.
If you think you've clicked on one of these fraudulent links, run your antivirus and keep a close eye on your bank and credit card accounts. "You start noticing some weird pop-ups or maybe weird ads on your Facebook feed. It's possible that it has wormed its way into your system and you may need a bit more thorough cleaning," he said.
If that's the case, you should find a computer expert you trust. Siewert says self awareness and educating yourself about cyber crime is great source of protection. "Even if there is a breakthrough with law enforcement or information security sectors that says OK, we know how to stop this, they are going to find another way to do it," Siewert said.
Probably your safest option, even if you think the email is legitimate, is don't click the link. If you have a question or think there is a problem, call the company or type in the web address yourself. Cyber experts say the same caution you use on a computer, should be used on your mobile devices.