Don’t be scared by scareware

Have you ever used your computer only to find a pop-up on your screen telling you that your computer is in urgent need of repair, or that you have a virus? If so you have been the target of something called scareware. Scareware cases are increasing, and more and more people are falling victim to the fake warnings. Let’s take a look at what scareware really is, and how you can avoid a costly mistake.

What is scareware?

Scareware is becoming a huge problem and many people have fallen for the scam. Scareware is nothing more than a pop-up that will appear on your computer screen. The pop-up will tell you that you have registry problems that need to be fixed, or that you have dozens of viruses that need to be taken care of immediately. The pop-up will include a link to a piece of software that will look like and will act like a virus killer.

The problem is that the piece of software that you purchase is not really a virus killer. It will look like you are running a virus killer, and the software will find many viruses. The software will act like it is removing the fake viruses, and will make you feel like you have removed all the bad files from your computer, when in fact you had none to begin with.

If you have ever purchased one of these pieces of software you have fallen for a scareware scam and unfortunately there is nothing you can do to get your hard earned cash back, but because of the recent spike in scareware attacks the FBI is now stepping in.

Operation Trident Tribunal

On June 22nd the FBI and the Department of Justice announced a joint operation to put an end to scareware scams. The FBI office in Seattle started to investigate after someone reported to them that they had fallen for the scam. The FBI’s investigation led them to Ukraine. Once the group behind the scareware scams were found, they admitted that they had received payments from 960,000 victims for a total of $72 million.

The FBI found out that the group had many ways of infecting user’s computers, but that the most popular way was to lead people to fake webpages that look like computer scanners that search for bad files. The FBI joined up with over 100 members of the SBU (the Ukrainian secret service) and took down several more operations in that country.

Operation Trident Tribunal has seen the USA, Ukraine, Latvia, Great Britain, Cyprus, France, Lithuania, Germany, Holland, Romania, Canada and Sweden join forces in an effort to break up scareware crime rings and they are having huge success.

How can you protect yourself?

There are many things you can do to protect yourselves from these scareware scams. The most important thing to do is make sure you have a well known anti-virus program installed on your computer. If you do not have anti-virus software you are putting yourself in great risk. AVG and Avast are both great, and they are both free. By installing one of these on your computer you are greatly reducing the risk of being scammed.

If you do see a pop up on your monitor do not click on it unless you know where it is from. Scareware pop-ups look like legitimate warnings from your computer, but do not be fooled. Look at the pop-up closely and you will see that it is fake. There will likely be symbols from well known companies on the pop-up, but when you click on them it does not take you to their website.

Scareware pop-ups can also be hard to close. Even when you click the red x to close the window, it might not close. Another telltale sign that it is a scam is if the popup directs you to a website that requests your credit card information.

Make sure your operating system is up to date with the latest patches and fixes from your operating system manufacturer, and make sure your current anti-virus software is up to date too.

This guest post is by Brett Day,  from Moore, Oklahoma. He is a featured contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network in Technology. He has a huge interest in the world of technology, home theater, and video games. Brett loves writing and sharing his knowledge on all of these subjects.