Learn to Protect Yourself From Scareware Scams

Security System

If you haven't heard the term scareware, you may have still have seen the scam. Here's how it works: you are innocently browsing the Internet, and a pop-up window appears. It shows you a screenshot of your "My Computer" files and tells you that a virus has been found. You're then informed for just $49.95, you can download a program that will remove the virus completely.

At this point, if you don't download the software, your computer starts acting buggy, and pop-ups begin appearing in droves. This software may have a link to a customer service person, which is not a service rep at all, it is a scammer. At this juncture, you may have unknowingly handed over access to your entire computer to the scammer. Once this access is given, the scammer has everything needed to steal information as well as your identity.

The Re-Invented Scam

This scam has been around for years, but there is a new game in town, with a bit of a twist. In this case, a popup appears that looks like a browser page. This page has a message on it, and this message may tell you that your computer is infected with malware. Or, the message may say that your security certificate expired, or you may be warned that visiting the site can harm your computer. There will usually be a link where you can download a program to either update your browser's security or download new security certificate.

The scary part is when these programs start popping up you won't see names you are familiar with. Some of the common software names that are part of this scam include "WinFixer," "AntiVirus2018," "DriveCleaner," and "Security Toolkit." The problem is that these programs are not real. Instead, they are spyware or viruses that may infect your PC.

8 Steps to Protect Yourself from Scareware

This scam is sophisticated and believable, as you go through the process of purchasing the software. There is an order form, shopping cart, download, and credit card processing page.

Fortunately, you can take the following steps to protect yourself:

  1. Use an updated browser. It doesn't matter what browser you use, such as Firefox versus Chrome, but you should make sure that you always use the latest version and always update security updates.
  2. Turn on your pop-up blockers. If you can't get pop-ups, you can't get scareware.
  3. If you do get a pop-up, completely shut down the browser. If the pop-up doesn't allow you to do this, use the Ctrl-Alt-Delete function to shut it down.
  4. When you get a pop-up, do not click any links included. If the pop-ups become too overwhelming, do a hard shutdown on the computer.
  5. Remember, shutting down a pop-up may be difficult, so use caution. Even clicking one button in a pop-up could be enough to download a virus on your computer.
  6. Always use an antivirus program and keep it updated.
  7. Do not click on any links on a web page that presents itself as a "warning" that you have a virus. Just close it out and scan your computer for viruses.
  8. Do not give out any personal information requested by the pop-up and do not click any button with a label that says "download" or something similar if it's from a suspicious site or page.

To best protect yourself, make sure you are using well-known and well-respected antivirus software. This helps alert you to suspicious activity on your computer and helps protect you should you accidentally download a potentially dangerous program.

Any type of software that causes you to panic in one way or another is likely scareware. To combat it, use common sense, do not download anything from a company you do not trust, and always protect yourself by using programs from recognizable, reputable companies.