You know malware, spyware, and viruses are bad for your computer system—they can slow down your performance, corrupt data, and even allow unauthorized access to your system and files. You know that you should have an up-to-date antivirus program and appropriate network security protocols in place. But one of the most important things you can do to become your own anti-virus and make sure that internet-based threats don't invade your system is...nothing.
Well, more specifically—don't click anything! Don't click "yes" to allow access, install programs, or perform "scans" offered by pop-up windows!
But how do you know whether a pop-up is a legitimate program or system message or whether it's an internet scam? The following examples are some of the most common types of fraudulent messages. Frequently, these messages have errors in spelling, punctuation, or syntax that can be a red flag that they aren't authentic communications from reputable companies, but sometimes they look nearly perfect (and sometimes, the errors are so easy to overlook that you may not notice).
The best advice? You'll do far less damage by always ignoring every message that comes up on your computer. Just click the "X" in the corner to close it. And if you're in doubt, just call the Dymin techs to find out!
The Fake Tech Support Scam
This graphic depicts a very common scheme in 2016 that we refer to as the “Fake Tech Support Scam.” It's not a "real" error message, i.e., one generated by Avast Technical Support—it is actually a web pop-up disguised as an error message. It even uses the logos and branding for Avast (which is a genuine and trustworthy software program) to further try to trick you into believing it's authentic and urgent. No genuine error message will ever tell you to call in for support. (For more details about how this scam works, read our blog post "Help! I Fell Victim to the 'Microsoft Tech Support' Scam.")
Phony Cell Phone Errors
Both of these messages appeared on mobile devices or phones. These kinds of pop-ups are quite common to run across if you visit websites promising free stuff or adult websites. Websites cannot diagnose errors on your phone or tablet. These messages are absolutely bogus; they are just worded to try to convince you to click on them. To close these without damage, tap on the “Tabs” button and swipe to close that particular tab. (In Chrome for Android, the "Tabs" button is the square with a number in it near the three dots at the upper-right corner.)
Bundled Additional Software
Here’s an example of a “free” software program that is packaged with another program. Many undesirable “free” programs come bundled with other software. When you start the software installation, you might give permission to install these bundled programs by default if you don’t pay attention (for example, by overlooking a checked box like in the above picture that says "yes, I want this feature"). Many times, this additional software is malicious in nature! To avoid this, always make sure to choose the “Advanced” or “Custom” installation method when installing downloaded software and uncheck any boxes that grant permission to install extra add-on programs. Also, be sure you’re downloading reputable software from a trusted website.
Fake Windows System Notices
This one’s tricky because the fake error is actually an Internet Explorer window disguised to look like a real Windows error. You can tell by the “Windows Internet Explorer” at the top-left of the blue bar. Do not click the "OK" or "Cancel" buttons; click the Red “X” and close it.
Multimedia Plug-in "Errors"
This is a common fake error message you may encounter when trying to play videos or movies you have downloaded or when trying to stream “free” movies online that are not typically free. This is a totally bogus error message; if you click "continue," it will install malicious software or viruses. In general, avoid any website with messages like this and avoid trying to download or stream any kind of movies that are normally paid for (which are likely subject to federal laws and copyright penalties).
Suspicious Security Alerts
This message looks like an alert from your Windows system, but it's not. It is actually coming from a program that was accidentally installed by other one of the other means above. This kind of malicious software creates fake pop-ups to try to get you to purchase fake spyware removal software that can even further corrupt your system. You can usually tell this software isn't authentic by the poorly-worded messages, and don't click "yes" to download anything. Unfortunately, you will need a computer technician’s help to remove the program generating the pop-ups.
Faux Firewall Warnings
Just like the suspicious security warnings in the previous screenshot, this one also depicts a fake program that’s been accidentally installed by an unsuspecting user. This one is trying to mimic the Windows Firewall warnings. The clues in this case are the overly aggressive and suspicious wording (as well as the spelling and grammar errors). If you see something like this, just hit the red “X” in the corner. If it keeps coming back, you’ll need professional help to get the hijacking program off of your machine.
If you're ever in doubt about a pop-up or potential threat to your IT security, call Dymin! We’ve seen it all, and we’ll know if something is legitimate. We can help you understand, prevent, and/or repair any problems caused by scams like these. Contact us today to learn more about the Dymin Malware Protection package as well as our other computer repair & IT support services, virus & spyware removal services, and managed IT support for business programs in the Des Moines, Iowa metro area.