Online virus warnings may try to trick you into buying bogus tech support—here’s what to watch out for
You can never be too careful on the Internet, but scammers know that we users are concerned about our computers’ security and they can use that concern to their advantage. The so-called “tech support” or “malware” scam has been circling the net for years, with con artists using the fear of computer viruses to foist bogus tech services on unsuspecting consumers.
It’s a hard scam to miss: a window pops up on your internet Browser warning that your computer may be infected with viruses or other malicious programs (malware). The scammers, often posing as Apple or Microsoft employees, or as certified third-party technicians, then helpfully offer you the software you need to remove the virus, claiming that the only way to save your computer is to contact them immediately to purchase that software.
The scammer uses this as an excuse to collect your credit card details, and may even try to gain remote access to your computer under the guise of helping to remove the virus. They may also prompt you to download an antivirus software, which is itself infected.
A pop-up telling you that your computer is seriously compromised is distinctly unsettling and even alarming, so it’s important to think calmly and critically when confronted with virus and malware warnings.
It’s wise to run antivirus software on your computer, such as Windows Defender (which you’ll have automatically if you’re running Windows 10) or the free Avast. Be careful to heed warnings only from programs that you know and trust, and to immediately close any pop-ups from other sources.
Using an ad blocker in your web browser is a good move as well, as it may prevent you from encountering these spam notifications. You would also do well to steer clear of pirated content, as illegal streaming sites are hotbeds of this kind of activity.
If you suspect your computer has been infected (if, for example, you’ve downloaded a fake virus scan software from one of these sites), be sure to do a scan with your antivirus software. For an even deeper clean, you can use a free anti-malware software like such as Malwarebytes to rid your machine of any dangerous files. Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that no tech support agents from Microsoft, Apple, or any other legitimate vendor will try to randomly solicit your business through the Internet.