Scam Computer Tune-up Software, Anti-Virus and Repair Services

Computer Fixer Scams, Popup Ads, Anti-Virus Frauds and Other Computer Services and Repair SCams

You may have been surfing the internet when suddenly a popup ad appears saying "your computer be infected" or needs to be tuned up or is running slowly, or some other warning, and instructing you to click there to fix it. Don't!  It is a scam!

How to the scams first appear?

Typically referred to as "Scareware Scams", or PC Support or  tech support scams, these can appear several ways:

  1. Scareware Popup Scams:
    a popup when you are surfing the internet or in an email, and
  2. PC Support or  tech support scams:
    in a phone call in which telemarketers masquerade as major computer companies, con consumers into believing that their computers are riddled with viruses, spyware and other malware, and then charge hundreds of dollars to remotely access and �fix� the consumers� computers.

Scareware Popups

 One of the most common varieties of scamware is for fake or useless commercial firewall and registry cleaner software. 

  1. While suring the internet a website displays a pop-up advertisement windows or banners with text such as:
    "Your computer may be infected with harmful spyware programs. Immediate removal may be required. To scan, click 'Yes' below." These popups are often designed to look like they come from the user's operating system when they are actually a webpage.
  2. When you click on the ad, your computer becomes infected with Malware.

Ransomware Scams

So-called �ransomware� scams work like this.

  1. While you are visiting a website, malicious software is installed on your computer, causing it not to work.
  2. A �pop up� box then appears on your computer, telling you that the computer has been infected.
  3. The scammer asks you to pay money to download software to repair the problem.
  4. If you do so, you give your credit card number to scammers, who will charge your account for bogus help and may use your credit card to make other unauthorized charges.

Tech Support Scams

The �tech support scam� works like this:

  1. A person receives a call at home from someone who claims to be a �tech support specialist� with a well-known computer or software company.
  2. The caller says that your computer has been infected by a malicious virus or spyware. He may use scare tactics, claiming that your computer will crash or the information on it will be misappropriated if you don�t immediately fix the problem.
  3. The caller says he can correct the problem for a fee if you allow him to remotely install anti-virus software, usually by going to a website to which he sends you.
  4. Wanting your computer to be fixed, you visit the website and give him your credit card number.
  5. Weeks later, you may discover that your account was charged not only for the supposed software repair 'service,� but also for other unauthorized transactions.

If you let the caller install a program onto your computer by visiting his website, you may also find that malware or spyware has been installed on your computer that allows the fraudster to drain from your computer private bank account numbers.


How to Avoid Malware

Scam artists try to trick people into clicking on links that will download malware and spyware to their computers, especially computers that don't use adequate security software. To reduce your risk of downloading unwanted malware and spyware:

Immediately take these steps:

  1. Use antivirus software, and keep it up to date (there are decent free antivrus packages for home use, too).
  2. Enable your web browser's (Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, etc.) phishing protection settings, usually found under "Tools" or "Preferences" or "Settings."
  3. Get to know the look of pop up messages from your current AV software. If you know what you are looking for, you are much harder to fool. Take note of the name and icon of your anti-virus software and click on pop ups that only come from that program.

Next steps and precautions

  • Keep your security software updated.
    At a minimum, your computer should have anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your security software, internet browser, and operating system (like Windows or Mac OS) to update automatically.
  • Instead of clicking on a link in an email, type the URL of the site you want directly into your browser.
    Criminals send emails that appear to be from companies you know and trust. The links may look legitimate, but clicking on them could download malware or send you to a spoof site designed to steal your personal information.
  • Don�t open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it is.
    Opening attachments - even in emails that seem to be from friends or family - can install malware on your computer.
  • Download and install software only from websites you know and trust.
    Downloading free games, file-sharing programs, and customized toolbars may sound appealing, but free software can come with malware.
  • Minimize "drive-by" downloads.
    Make sure your browser security setting is high enough to detect unauthorized downloads. For Internet Explorer, for example, use the "medium" setting at a minimum.
  • Use a pop-up blocker and don't click on any links within pop-ups.
    If you do, you may install malware on your computer. Close pop-up windows by clicking on the "X" in the title bar.
  • Resist buying software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails,
    especially ads that claim to have scanned your computer and detected malware. That's a tactic scammers use to spread malware.
  • Talk about safe computing.
    Tell your kids that some online actions can put the computer at risk: clicking on pop-ups, downloading "free" games or programs, opening chain emails, or posting personal information.
  • Back up your data regularly.
    Whether it's text files or photos that are important to you, back up any data that you'd want to keep in case your computer crashes.

What happens if your computer has become infected?

If you do click on the popups, the software may:

  • Trick you into entering your credit card information or passwords or personal information.
  • Steal your bank account information and empty out your account.
  • Send spam messages from your email address.
  • Corrupt or destroy your documents.
  • Allow other, stronger infections into your computer.
  • Crash your computer or slow it to a crawl.
  • Infect other computers both on the Internet and on a local network.
  • Prompt you for payment to remove the "infection."

What to do if you did click on the popup?

  1. Close and quit the web browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) immediately.
  2. Do NOT click on OK or cancel. Even a button that says "close" can be deceiving.
  3. Often the pop up window is of the web page so if you close your browser it will go away.
  4. Download Malwarebytes (it is free).
  5. Then disconnect from the Internet to run a full scan using Malwarebytes.
  6. Run a full scan with the anti-virus program (Norton 360, McAffee, AVG, Avast) installed on your computer.
    For your information, the full scan can take several hours to complete properly.

See this page for a detailed explanation and steps to follow.

Methods of Reporting Scam Emails to US-CERT

  • In Outlook Express, you can create a new message and drag and drop the phishing email into the new message. Address the message to phishing-report@us-cert.gov  and send it.
  • In Outlook Express you can also open the email message* and select File > Properties > Details. The email headers will appear. You can copy these as you normally copy text and include it in a new message tophishing-report@us-cert.gov.
  • If you cannot forward the email message, at a minimum, please send the URL of the phishing website.

* If the suspicious mail in question includes a file attachment, it is safer to simply highlight the message and forward it. Some configurations, especially in Windows environments, may allow the execution of arbitrary code upon opening and viewing a malicious email message.


For more information about phishing, see this page.


Recommendations- What to do if you are the Victim of a High-Tech Computer Scam:

If you become a victim of a tech support scam, take the following steps:

  1. Have your computer inspected by an expert. Scammers may install spyware or malware on your computer to partially disable the computer's protective firewalls or antivirus software and drain your computer of private bank account and other information stored on it.
  2. Until you are sure that your computer is free of spyware or malware, don�t connect to the Internet.
  3. Change your computer's password, change the password on your email accounts, and change the password for any financial accounts, especially your bank and credit card accounts.
  4. If you provided your credit card information to the scammer, promptly contact your credit card company to notify it of the scam and dispute any inappropriate charges. You may wish to cancel your credit card to protect against future unauthorized charges.

These scams are crimes. You may file a report with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which can be contacted as follows:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Minneapolis Office
    1501 Freeway Boulevard
    Brooklyn Center, MN 55430
    (763) 569-8000
    www.fbi.gov

You may also wish to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission as follows:

  • Federal Trade Commission
    Consumer Response Center
    600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, D.C. 20580
    Toll free: 1-877-382-4357
    www.consumer.ftc.gov

And

  • Only open email or IM attachments that come from a trusted source and that are expected
  • Use an anti-virus/anti-spam package (we recommend Norton 360 or Norton Internet Security scan all attachments prior to opening. Click here to see Norton 360 2013 on Amazon.com .
  • Delete the messages without opening any attachments
  • Do not click on links in emails that come from people you do not know and trust, even if it looks like it comes from a company you know.
  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date
  • Keep your operating system up to date with current security patches. Click here for an article that describes how to do this.

And please let us know about any suspicious calls or emails you receive.  We look for patterns so that we can alert the authorities and victims to new scams, before it is too late!

References:

  1. Microsoft: Rogueware, roguesaoftware
  2. Wikiedped "Sareware"
  3. FTC "Malware"
  4. MAlwaretips.com - "How to remove malware from pop up support ads"
  5. NBC News - "How to avoid the nasty fake antivirus scam It happened to me and it could happen to you if you aren't careful"
  6. Norton 360 - Norton 360 2014 - 1 User / 3 Licenses [Old Version]

 


 

For a comprehensive list of national and international agencies to report scams, see this page.