Scareware – Watch out for “Free Security Scan”

by Marianne Sorensen

Have you had this happen to you recently: You’re researching something on the internet, visiting sites that you have not frequented before, when suddenly your computer warns you that a malicious virus has been found and you must take immediate steps to save your system. Or, you may see a pop-up window alerting you that your security software is out-of-date and your computer is in immediate danger.Messages like these are likely to be “scareware” – programs that are designed to exploit your fear in order to rip you off or compromise your computer’s security. The purveyors of scareware run well-organized and profitable schemes at the expense of consumers who cannot help but be alarmed by the products and services which are designed to look legitimate. Even though these alerts may look as though they are being generated by your computer, they are actually being sent through your browser.

You can avoid problems by being on the lookout for telltale signs of a scam: unsolicited offers to “clean your registry”; invitations to download free software; or announcements that a website has performed a security scan for you and found a problem, which you can fix by downloading updated software. If you fall for these scams, not only are you wasting your money, as there is no problem to fix, but you may be installing a program that really is harmful.

If you do encounter scareware such as described, immediately shut down your brower. DO NOT click on “no” or “cancel” or the “x” in the top right corner of the screen, as these buttons can activate malicious programs. For Windows, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete to open your Task Manager, and click “End Task.”

Good security practices include making sure that you have active and current security safeguards, including anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Do not click on links within pop-ups. Check out the name of any program by entering it into a search engine.

You can also visit http://www.OnGuardOnline.gov to learn more about protecting your computer from bugs, viruses and scammers.

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