Screenshot of Virus Detected AlertLet’s say you’re bored, so you decide to surf the web to kill some time.  You see an interesting news story about your favorite pop star, click on it, and BAM!  A window pops up, telling you that your computer is infected.  Has this happened to you before?

This is one of the more prevalent scams on the Internet.  Federal investigators and security experts estimate that anti virus scammers have extracted approximately $1 billion from victims in the past several years.  But the methods employed by these high-tech scammers are not high tech – they are just malicious.

How does it work?

It can all happen very quickly: you click on a link, which triggers a pop-up, that immediately issues “critical” warnings that your computer is infected.  These warnings can appear to be an error message directly from your computer, and usually have bright read flashing text and ominous graphics.  However, the warning kindly tells you that for a certain amount of money you can download an anti-virus software to “fix” the errors on your computer – errors that don’t exist or that are actually planted by the software they are selling.  Even if you are smart and do not purchase the software, merely clicking on the warnings can deliver other forms of malware or actually install viruses or spyware onto your computer.


Warning Signs – how can you identify fake anti-virus programs?

1. Free online scan: Face it, nothing is free.  By offering a free scan, scammers induce you to believe that the scan discovered terrible infections in your computer.

2. Many Problems: Fake anti-virus software will often find more suspicious activity on your computer than programs made by legitimate companies.

3. Accelerated Pop-Ups: The number of pop-ups you see may increase drastically even when you are not connected to the Internet.


How can you protect yourself?

1. Have your system secure by always having a firewall in place.

2. Never click on pop-up advertisements.

3. Open emails only if you can verify the vendor and trust them.

4. Always scan email attachments with your anti-virus program if it does not do so automatically.

5. Only buy anti-virus software from reputable companies.  Check the names carefully, because scam artists try to make their products look and sound similar.

6. Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites you frequent to make it more difficult for people to post content on your page, lessening your chances of malicious software being passed on to you.

7. Report to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (

8. Report to SCAMBOOK!


See More

So What’s the Difference Between Antivirus and Anti-Malware Software?
The 9 Bad Email Habits That Expose You to Scams and Identity Theft
Search with Bing Instead of Google? Why You May Be at Risk for Malware

About The Author

Scambook is an online complaint resolution platform dedicated to obtaining justice for victims of fraud with unprecedented speed and accuracy. By building communities and providing resources on the latest scams, Scambook arms consumers with the up-to-date information they need to stay on top of emerging schemes. Since its inception, Scambook has resolved over $10 million in reported consumer damages.

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3 Responses

  1. ron fancher

    can you list the companies that promise anti virus protection that are fraudulent?

  2. Grammie

    Oh our business loves those that believe anything! We get to fix them up. But you might add that the popup is not a virus! Not yet, it is a program that tells you that you are infected and for only anywhere from $39.95 to $72.95, they will fix it right up for you. The only ones that gain from this little scam are the scammers taking your money and gaining your info from your credit/debit cards so they can empty out your acct at the bank. Plus this program has to be cleaned up usually with special software. You might be able to clean it up or so you think but they have it fixed that the next time you log on, it is right back wanting money. IF you get one, change passwords, run your anti virus programs, and send to spam. There are a couple you need to run. Malware bytes and super anti spyware, both quick scans usually take them out. If you haven’t clicked on them that is. Sometimes you need to start in safe mode in order to d/l anti virus programs as your permissions have been changed and won’t allow you to d/l anything to get rid of the scam program. If you are not computer savy then turn it off at once and get to your favorite tech guy at the computer store that can clean it off for you before your system is taken over. Sometimes if you have not turned it off, clicked on something, let it run, your pc will need to have windows reloaded as it is too messed up to even turn on. Way to not get them is listed above. Do not open anything from anyone you don’t know. Put OpenDNS on and Windows esstential to help stop your browser from taking you to unsafe sites. And don’t fall for those popups. Have a good day and be safe.


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