I’ve touched on this topic before, but unfortunately the problem has become so prevalent again, it’s time to revisit it.    I’m talking about fake virus popup warnings, and I’m getting 3-4 calls a week from customers who’re are seeing them.

Here’s what happens…

There you are, searching google for an Easter hot cross bun recipe and all of a sudden, a message pops up, filling the screen and warning you that a problem has been detected.   Often the message states that Microsoft has detected the problem.  Even worse, a siren sounds, and sometimes a recorded message plays, urging you to call a number and not to restart!

Oftentimes, the message is so convincing and scary that people immediately pick up the phone and call the number on the screen.  They’ll get straight through to an engineer who talks them through installing remote access so that they can get in and fix the problem.   It’s only then that they explain that it’s going to cost hundreds of dollars and you need to pay now!

So, what’s really happening?  Have you been infected?  What should you do????

Well first of all – don’t call the number!  These are scammers, and their only intent is to extort money from you.   If you give them access to your computer, the first thing they’ll likely do is install a real virus and then blackmail you into paying a ransom.

What’s actually happening is quite simple – you’re just viewing a web page, made to look like a virus warning.   And that web page can do nothing to your computer to harm it.

The latest tactic of the scammers is to target people searching for recipes believe it or not.   I’d say 95% of the cases I’ve seen recently were all a result of recipe searches.

What the scammer does is set up a web page, relating to a particular recipe – let’s use the example of hot cross buns.   They then advertise on Google for anyone looking for this type of recipe.  But the web page is a trap – instead of giving you baking instructions, the page is designed to look like a legitimate virus warning.   I say legitimate, but virus warnings are never like this. Instead, Anti-Virus programs quietly work in the background to block any threats.   They’ll never play a siren and cover the screen with alerts!

What’s particularly annoying about these scams, is that the web page is difficult to close.   They use tactics that make it seem impossible to bypass without calling the number.

The simplest solution is often to just restart the computer.  This is why the fake message specifically warns you not to restart!   By clicking on the start menu and choosing to shutdown/restart, your internet browser will be automatically closed.   When the computer boots up again, you’ll likely be asked if you want to restore the web pages – just say no, otherwise you’ll be back to square one!

The next tactic is to “right-click” on your internet browser icon at the bottom of the screen.   From here you might be able to select “close-window”.

If this doesn’t work, you can press Ctrl-Alt-Del and bring up Task Manager.   Task Manager shows you all the programs running on your computer.   Here you can select a program and close it (without having to restart).

As a last resort – you can power off the computer.  Press and hold the power button until the computer shuts off.   You should only do this if the previous methods don’t work, as this can sometimes cause problems with Windows.

So, what can you do to avoid the problem?   Firstly, be careful of what sites you visit on the internet – try to stick to known websites.

Make sure you have Anti-Virus and web filtering installed and up to date, as these may block these types of sites before you can visit them.

I offer a service called “Shield” which for $10 per month offers a comprehensive suite of Anti-Virus, Web filtering and 24×7 monitoring of your computer for problems.   If you’re interested in this service, please get in touch!