A few weeks ago, one of our clients contacted us in a panic after receiving a phone call that seemed a little fishy. The call came from someone alleging to be from an IT company informing them that their antivirus software subscription had expired and that they needed a credit card number to renew. The company also managed to gain access to the user’s computer. Unfortunately, scams such as this are becoming more common lately and are taking the form of not just phone calls but also fake antivirus notifications on your desktop. So this week we’re going to discuss some things to watch out for that will help you identify a fake antivirus scam before you become the next victim.
Fake Antivirus Alerts
The fake antivirus scam usually starts with a fake alert on your computer. While these warnings can take any form, there are a couple of types that scammers tend to use more often in general.
- Website Ads/Popups: Internet advertising used to be really easy to identify. Nowadays companies have adapted to integrate their ads more effectively. This can make it difficult to distinguish content and advertising which means it becomes more difficult to recognize fake antivirus advertisements that are laden with malware. When you browse a page and find a flashing ad that claims you have infections on your computer, the best course of action is to simply ignore it. No antivirus software company would report your alerts on a web page.
- Browser Popups: Popups in your browser or on your desktop are even more convincing as they look extremely similar to the ones from your Operating System. However, they are easily recognizable if you know what to look for – the text of these fake antivirus popups is very hyperbolic and over-the-top, like urging you to “act immediately.”
These fake antivirus alerts may also include phone numbers to call, which would then put you in touch with a scammer asking either for remote access to your computer or a credit card number.
What to Do if You Get a Fake Antivirus Alert or Phone Call
- Take a Deep Breath: The worst thing you can do is act in haste. Take a deep breath and take your time dealing with the problem. Don’t click on or agree to anything until you figure out what’s going on.
- Read the Alert Carefully: Usually, the fake products being advertised have fake-sounding names. A high frequency of alerts is another warning sign, as are alerts with poor grammar and spelling mistakes.
- Search the Product Name: Googling the name of the product will result in two outcomes: either the product comes up legitimately, or you will find a bunch of results from other people questioning its authenticity.
- Scan Your Computer with a Legitimate Anti-Virus Program: A fake antivirus warning on your computer may be a sign of malware lurking on your computer. Use a legitimate program to detect and delete it. If the malware won’t go away, check out this guide to learn how to completely clean your computer.
- Contact Your IT Department, Guy or Gal, or Your IT Service Provider: Let them know what you have encountered. Take any screenshots of the alerts to show them. If you work with Howard Tech Advisors, we will be able to identify if this is a real alert or not. Howard Tech’s managed services clients are being monitored around the clock and will be notified directly if antivirus software needs to be updated.
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