Scary! But don't fall for it.
Scary! But don’t fall for it. (Click to enlarge)

What It Is

You may encounter a web page or pop-up that has a threatening message that your computer has “critical errors”, a “malicious infection” or other scary-sounding terms. You are given a phone number to call to resolve the issue. The truth is, the website hasn’t actually scanned your computer. This is nothing more than an ad that hopes to scare a user into calling the number.

If you do call, you’ll reach a call center. The sales person knows why you’re calling and will tell you he/she is “with” Comcast, Microsoft, AOL, or some other familiar company.

This is a lie.

An offshore call center

Then the sales rep will try to get you to download remote support software so they can connect to your computer. If you follow their instructions, you are allowing a complete stranger total access to your computer.

The sales rep will poke around, open a command prompt, and open Event Viewer while explaining all the problems they are finding with your computer. Then you are hit with a $200 bill for them to fix the “issues” they found.

This is usually where the caller hangs up, and calls us instead!

How It Happened

Mac isn’t invincible, here it is on Safari.

This type of message always appears as a webpage or a pop-up on a webpage. The modus operandi is to have the user click on a link in an email, or click on an ad found on an unscrupulous webpage. Since this is web-browser based, any device can get these threatening messages if you click the wrong link; Macs, Windows, even mobile devices.

How to Remove It

The pop-ups are very clever, actually. If the user tries to close them, the website will make it instantly reappear, as if it was never closed. This causes the user to think there really is a problem with the computer, and more likely to call the number shown on the screen.

Hold down the power button until the computer turns off.

If you cannot close your web browser, this is one of those times it’s ok to hold the power button down until your computer shuts off. When you turn your computer back on your web browser should load your home page.

How to Prevent It From Happening

Google Chrome is known to block your access to known malware/adware sites that use these messages. Having antivirus such as Norton 360 helps too. (Comcast customers can download Norton Security Suite for free!) Using an AdBlocker in your web browser may prevent the web page from creating a pop-up.

You Could Really Be Infected

This is an actual infection, not an ad on a webpage.

Here is the catch-22; if you landed on a page that was able to serve up this scary ad, it might have sent you malware in the background. If you experience a threatening message and you do not have antivirus, or you are running an older operating system such as Windows XP, you should contact us. You could have been compromised when you landed on that webpage.

Published by Kamryn

I.T. Consultant & digital wizard