Last week, we took a quick look at fake SMS text message scams, from courier companies and the likes. You know by now not to click the links in these “phishing” messages.

But, what happens if you click links in these messages or e-mails?

The key difference between phishing e-mails and other types of e-mail scams is that with phishing e-mails, the scammer does not need or want you to reply. The main goal here of the scammer is to get you to click their link or download their file.

The scammers know you’ll take some convincing, so they will normally ask you to take some kind of urgent action like clicking to update your details or going to their website to verify your identity. You may also be asked to open or read an attachment to verify your details or claim your prize.

If you click the link or open the attachment, there are several possible or likely outcomes that could include any or all of the following.

  • The scammer now knows that you are gullible enough to click the link – even if you don’t hand over any personal information, just knowing that you clicked on their link is enough to target you with more similar e-mails in future.
  • The link could send you to a page that will directly take control of your computer. The risk is even higher if you are opening unknown attachments, but clicking on links could still compromise your computer or your browser by infecting you with Malware or Ransomware.
  • Malware could allow a scammer to access any information on your computer and allow your information and data to be stolen.
  • Your computer could be “enslaved” and used to send more scam e-mails to all of your contacts, friends, and family.
  • Ransomware can lock your files and data and demand money from you to unlock them.
  • The phishing link could lead you to a legitimate looking copy of the real website which asks you to enter a username, password or other banking and card details. The consequence of entering such details should be obvious, but in this case the scammer is looking to capture your personal details to steal your identity, your money, or both.
  • Clicking on some types of links in e-mails could give direct control of your personal online accounts to the scammers. In the past, scammers have taken over legitimate YouTube, eBay, and Amazon accounts, taking advantage of your real followers and good reviews and good feedback in order to make quick money. Clicking these links will totally bypass any security measures you have in place. Opening one of these links gives them direct access to anything you have access to.

If any of this sounds scary to you then it’s good to be scared if it makes you careful in future.