There’s
probably nothing more underhanded than for someone to trick or fool you by
pretending they want to help, or for someone to masquerade as a good guy, when
in fact they’re out to do you harm.
In real life,
maybe it’s someone impersonating a police officer or a priest and taking
advantage of your sense of trust. On the Internet, it’s a con artist
masquerading as an Internet security professional or expert.
And here’s
their disguise: These con artists aren’t using deceptive email messages to
deceive you—they’re tricking you with online pop-up ads saying your computer
has been infected…and that you have to remove the virus immediately.
And when you
follow their seemingly trustworthy advice and take action, all you’ve done is
either paid for worthless software or downloaded their malicious software
(malware)…exactly what you were trying to avoid.
They have
scared you into falling for their ploy, and that’s why their computer poison is
called scareware. Maybe you’ve seen it. You may have even fallen for it…but
don’t know it.
Scared to the
keys.
Here’s how it
might happen: You’re reading the morning headlines online when suddenly a
screen pops up, out of nowhere, alerting you that there’s an emergency on your
computer. It looks very official and legitimate. It will say something like
this:
Your computer may be infected with harmful
spyware programs. Immediate removal is required. To scan, click
“Yes.”
Sometimes the
pop-ups are designed to look harmless and authentic. But at other times they
can look and seem much more serious and urgent…like the ones shown here.
You’re not
sure if it’s real or not, so what should you do? The message may seem
authentic…and perhaps, in some way, appreciated by you. Thanks for the
warning, you might think.
But the key
to all of this is that we are all so afraid of having our computers infected,
and our identity or data stolen, that when an alert pops up, we think for that second
that it has finally and actually happened. A bug has infected our computer.
It’s a chilling fear.
And the con
artists know it.
“Do
something now!”
A few years
ago, a security group (a real one!) estimated that 70,000 people were exposed
to a scareware message every day! And surely that number has only been going
up. Today, there are likely more than 15,000 versions of scareware
“packages”—malware loaded behind a pop-up alert or ad.
When the
pop-up or alert suddenly appears, it advises the user to take immediate action:
·    Install new antivirus software immediately.
·   Install recommended updates immediately.
·  Remove the detected virus or spyware.
And of course, the entire alert, message and
recommended steps are part of the fraud. And there are two ways the scenario
will play out: They’ll sell you fake security software and/or steal data from
you.
The scary
part of scareware.
If the con
artists just want to take your money, they’ll run a fake “security
check” that, of course, identifies viruses on your computer. Their
recommended solution? That you purchase instant protection with security
add-ons. They trick you into spending money while giving you a false sense of
security because you’re buying “vaporware”—a program that doesn’t
exist.
By
downloading this fake software, you are also handing them your credit card
information…which they’ll be glad to use for their own purchases or to sell
to someone eager to steal your identity or account.
The scary
part of scareware?
· When you click on a pop-up, “rogue software” will be
downloaded onto your computer—in other words, a very nasty virus or malware.
· In a worst-case scenario, the hacker can hijack your computer and lock
up your personal information. Your computer can then be held for ransom. To get
your computer back in operation, you have to pay up.
What should you do?
1. If you
receive a scareware message, close the entire browser
window without
clicking on the pop-up at all!
 The pop-up is designed to load malware
if you click anywhere on it. Close the entire page without touching the ad.
2. If you see a
pop-up ad or receive a message similar to those mentioned above, avoid clicking
the “download” button at all costs. One estimate says that 93% of
scareware downloads are initiated by innocent (and unaware) computer users.
3.    Make sure you have Internet security software
from a well-known company, which will alert you of and protect you from any
malicious program you start to download.
4. Rely on
antivirus and antispyware products that are well known and respected.
5. Always keep
your operating system updated and surf the Internet using a firewall.
Most experts recommend that when you see a
pop-up with a virus alert, you should close the window using the Windows Task
Manager. With a little searching online, you can find a link that shows you how
to do it.

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