Welcome to my inaugural blog about online threats! The purpose of this blog is to alert families to some of the dirty tricks that the bad guys use to scam families on the Internet.
The first scam I’m going to tell you about is not a new one, but it remains popular. It’s called scareware, or fake antivirus software scams, and McAfee Labs is reporting that it has more than doubled since the beginning of 2009, affecting around 69,000 people in the U.S. alone. The worst part is that it preys on people who are actually trying to protect themselves online by looking for anti-virus and anti-spyware products!
My family actually had this happen to us once. My husband was using the computer when a pop-up told him that he needed to run a scan on the computer. He clicked on the link thinking it was the software on our computer. Unfortunately, it was just a pop-up ad and when he clicked on it, it downloaded a virus onto our computer. Tricky, huh?
It also happend to Stevie Wilson, a blogger and scareware victim who lives in Los Angeles. She shared her story in the video below.
Here are 3 critical things you need to know about these types of security software scams but do keep in mind they have many components. (If you want more information about this threat check out www.mcafee.com/consumer-threats-blog):
1. The scam starts when an individual clicks on a banner ad, a pop-up, or a search result with a headline similar to: “Free Anti-Virus Download 2009 Leading Anti-Virus Software, Free Download – Here!”
Note the emphasis on “free.” Remember that saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is?” Keep that in mind.
2. Next, a window opens to a professional-looking web site that offers to provide a free scan to see if your PC has been compromised by cyber attackers. If you run the scan, the web site is going to tell you that your PC has “potential viruses.” Folks, these are not viruses or other types of malware!
What the scan has really revealed is a listing of innocent files that may or may not be on your PC. In some cases, just clicking on the scanner also downloads a Trojan, in addition to the program that performs the scan.
3. The third part of the scam is all about offering to clean your system of potential threats just to get your credit card number. Big surprise, huh?
So after all of the mysterious threats are found, they want you to run another scan and then buy their product. That’s when they get you: they’ll have your money, you’ve just purchased a fake product and they will continue to scam you!
Here’s what to keep in mind if you come across a suspicious pop up:
1. Get a recommendation from someone who is savvy about Internet security software. Of course, not all free scanners are scams, but ask around for reputable software.
2. Investigate the company before purchasing their software.
3. Be careful when responding to pop-up ads.
If all of this is sounding a bit too familiar and you’re in a bit of a panic, here’s what you can do:
1. To check if you have malware—or in this case, a known fake anti-virus–installed on your PC, scan your computer for free using the McAfee Stinger tool, go to: http://www.mcafee.com/stinger-tool.
2. You can protect your computer from this type of cybercrime by installing an anti-virus and firewall software and ensuring it is always up to date (make sure the “auto-update” feature is on) and performing regular scans. You should also check your vendor’s Web site regularly to see what patches are available for your applications (such as Internet Explorer, etc.).
3. Contact the Cybercrime Response Unit at www.mcafee.com/cru, an online help center for advice and technical assistance if you think you’ve been a victim of a cybercrime or would like to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.
I’ve only touched on one common scam. If you’d like to learn about other similar scams then check out the entire Consumer Threat Alert at www.mcafee.com/consumer-threats-blog.
And if you want to receive free email alerts from McAfee about the latest Consumer Threat then sign up at www.mcafee.com/consumer-threats-signup.
Happy surfing, and tell your friends and family to watch out for this scam. Hackers want to keep us in the dark about their dirty tricks – don’t let them win!