Scareware is a particularly underhanded form of malware that causes fraudulent warning messages to pop up on your screen. These messages tell you something is wrong, or something bad is about to happen, and that you must immediately take a specific action to make it stop. Other names for this virus include “fraudware” and “rogue scanner software.”
Scareware messages come in all shapes and sizes. Some messages display alarming security warnings demanding immediate action, while some present more innocent-looking messages that simply prompt you to click “OK” to dismiss.
Sometimes the popups look harmless. In many cases, though, the popup appears to be a serious warning with any urgent message telling you to pay for software or a service to solve the bogus problem. The price tag for the solution is usually a small one, which makes the scam even more believable.
In the best-case scenario, you’ve paid for a worthless service. In the worst case, however, you’ve downloaded more malicious software to your computer, or you’ve provided your card information to criminals.
QUICK TIP: Question any warning message that asks you to download, install, or pay for something.
Then follow these important steps:
Step 1: Close the browser. The first thing you should always do when you see a suspicious alert on your computer is to close the entire browser window without clicking anything on the popup. (If the popup is preventing this, open your task manager – CTRL+ALT+DELETE on PC and COMMAND+OPTION+ESCAPE on Mac) and shut down your browser from there. If this doesn’t work, shut off your computer. When you start your computer again, don’t open your browser until you’ve completed the next two steps.
Step 2: Run a virus scan. Once you’ve closed your browser completely, run a virus scan on your computer using your installed security software.
Step 3: Make sure your operating system is up to date. Run any pending system updates, then reboot your computer afterward if it doesn’t reboot automatically. When you start your browser, decline any prompts that ask you if you want to reopen the tabs you were using before. If the popup returns, clearing the recent history and cache from your browser may eliminate the remnants of the scareware.