Learn to Protect Yourself From Scareware Scams

Have you heard of scareware? If you haven't heard the term, you may have seen the scam. Here's how it goes: 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, but for $49.95, you can download a program that will remove it 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 really just a scammer, who you may unknowingly give access to your entire computer. Once this access is given, the scammer has all they need to steal information and even your identity.

This scam has been around for years, but there is a new game in town too, 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, the security certificate may be expired or you might be a warning 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.

You won't see names that you are familiar with when these programs start popping up. Some of the common software names that are part of this scam include "WinFixer," "AntiVirus2015," "DriveCleaner," or even "Security Toolkit." The problem is this: these are not real programs.

Instead, they are spyware or viruses that may infect your PC.

Protecting Yourself from Scareware

This is an incredibly sophisticated scam, too, and very believable, as you actually go through the motions of purchasing the software. There is an order form, shopping cart, download and credit card processing.

Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Use an updated browser. It doesn't necessarily depend on 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 in them. 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 anti-virus program and keep it updated
  7. Do not click on any links on a web page that services 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 based on a pop-up and do not click any button with the label that says "download" or similar.

To best protect yourself, make sure you are using a well-known and well-respected antivirus software.

This will help to alert you of suspicious activity on your computer, and it will help to protect you should you accidentally download a program you shouldn't have.

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 with programs from reputable companies.