Spotting and Dealing with Fake Antivirus Messages

Spotting and Dealing with Fake Antivirus Messages

One of the most popular online scams in recent years is the sending of fake antivirus messages to people as they are working on their computer. This type of “scareware” claims that your computer has been infected with some sort of malware and you need to take action to get rid of it before it eats your computer alive.

In some cases, the goal is to get you to buy antivirus software from them. This could also be a phishing exercise to get hold of your personal data. In worst-case scenarios, these fake messages are designed to get you to download malware which will harm your computer.

The most obvious solution is to get either Norton or McAfee antivirus software and update it regularly with the most up-to-date protection for the new viruses and so on that are always emerging. It will take time when you first upload the program but once you have, you can set the updates to get uploaded automatically, with the program running in the background so it won’t interfere with your most important tasks.

Even taking these measures, it pays to be vigilant because new threats are happening all the time. There are a few places to watch out for them.

1. Ads

Clicking on harmless-looking ads could end up being your worst nightmare. Avoid flashing ads, and ones that tell you that you have hundreds of viruses. Don’t believe them when they say which type of malware you have. The cybercriminals’ goals are to panic you and get you to do something foolish such as buy something, give away personal data, or download the very malware you are scared of.

2. Pop-Ups

Many browsers suppress pop-ups because they are known to be infected with malware. Or, their messaging is all about malware you supposedly have on your computer.

They can be difficult to get off the screen because there is no X, or the X just produces another pop-up. They will often fill the screen, and prevent you from closing the browser. In some cases they might even warn you not to shut down your computer because of the supposed damage the malware might cause. In many cases, a restart might be just what you need to get rid of the annoying threat.

The messaging will usually emphasize how urgent it is to deal with the threat in the hope you will do something hasty and foolish.

3. System Tray Notifications

These can pop up on the lower right of your screen and be very scary because they look so official. Windows 8 and 10 are most vulnerable to this type of threat. It can be difficult to get the message to go away even when you click the X.

The language will be similar in terms of scare factor and urgency.

What to Do If You Think You Have a Fake Alert

The main thing is not to panic. Don’t do anything it asks. Don’t keep clicking. Read what it says first to determine it is a fake. The software they are trying to sell will usually have a vague name and there will be few details about the benefits of the item. Also look for bad grammar, spelling and punctuation. Don’t start filling out any forms. Never give them credit card data.

Some scammers will pretend it is a request to update your annual Norton or McAfee subscription, but these companies would never approach you in this manner, but rather, via the program interface and/or email.

Go to Google and search for the product name. You will usually find it is a fake and often also discover advice on how to get rid of the inconvenient message.

Once you are sure you know what you are dealing with, close your browser using Control+Alt+Delete, not the X on the ad or the browser.

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