By Allan Lengel
WASHINGTON — The FBI has issued a warning to the public to beware of “scareware”, bogus pop-up messages that warn that your computer is infected with a virus when it really is not. The pop ups then recommend buying a certain antivirus software.
“Most of these pop-ups are scams, and it’s one of the fastest-growing types of Internet fraud today,” the FBI said in a warning published on its webpage.
The FBI warned that if you try to buy the antivirus software “it will either do nothing…or it could compromise your computer by installing malicious software onto your system. And in some instances, you don’t even have to click on the pop-up box…the software downloads automatically.”
The FBI said majority of these scammers operate outside the U.S. But it said it has had some success in prosecuting some people.
Last May, for example, three people were charged in Illinois in with scamming users in more than 60 countries, including the U.S., to buy more than $100 million worth of bogus “scareware” software, the FBI said.
According to the FBI webpage, here’s how to spot a scareware scam:
- Does the pop-up use “non-clickable” icons? To build authenticity into their software, scareware will show a list of reputable icons—like those of software companies or security publications. However, the user can’t click through to the sites to see the actual reviews or recommendations.
- Is the pop-up ad hard to close? Scareware pop-ups employ aggressive techniques and will not close easily after clicking the “close” or “X” button.
- Have you heard of the software before? Cyber criminals use easy-to-remember names like Virus Shield, Antivirus, or VirusRemover.
The FBI said a good way to protect yourself against the scareware is to have up-to-date antivirus software.