Use of fake anti-virus software is a fast-growing scam, especially since people are so aware of the dangers of spyware, adware and malware.
Scammers often use the names of well-known companies that specialise in computer security software – such as AVG, Norton, Bullguard, McAfee, etc – to gain your trust. The pop-up adverts are almost exact replicas of genuine warning alerts generated by these legitimate security manufacturers – once you click the warning, your computer is infected.
The aim of this scam is to charge you for bogus software and/or obtain your personal information. Once your computer is infected, the scammer is able to gather information to steal your identity or to sell it to other criminals.
Fake virus alerts are usually generated by a Trojan – a program that takes control of your computer after you open an email attachment, click on a pop-up advert or visit a particular website. Sometimes the Trojan creates ‘false positive’ readings, making you believe viruses and spyware have infected your computer, even though nothing has. In other cases, scam software actually implants malicious code into your computer, especially if you request a ‘free virus scan’.
So how do you know if you have been infected with malware:
n Rogue anti-virus programmes often generate more ‘alerts’ than the software made by reputable companies.
n You may be bombarded with pop-ups, even when you’re not online.
n High-pressure sales ads will try to convince you to buy. Now!
n Your computer may dramatically slow down.
n New desktop icons or wallpaper may appear or your default homepage may be redirected to another site.
To avoid becoming infected, we recommend:
n Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus software and use a good firewall.
n Never open an email attachment unless you are positive about the source.
n Do not click on any pop-up that advertises anti-virus or anti-spyware software.
n Never click on pop-up alerts! Don’t even click on the cross to delete the pop-up alert as this may result in getting more pop-ups. Instead, press Control + Alt + Delete to view a list of programs currently running and delete the pop-up alert from the list of running programs.
n Avoid questionable websites – they may automatically download malicious software on to your computer.
n If your computer is infected by rogue software, stop using the computer as this may further damage your machine and provide identity thieves with more information about you.
Although the majority of anti-virus pop-up alerts are fake, you may of course have received a legitimate virus warning. If you are unsure whether it is a genuine warning, check the official website of your anti-virus provider or consult a computer professional.