How to outsmart those tricky online scammers

Malware and adware are applications that you accidentally download to your computer. They are unnecessary programs or plugins that market themselves for solving some issue or making your life easier. Games, free search bars, etc. Usually if its a free download that is promoted from an ad it contains adware, which is the end game for the developer to get paid.  I get a lot of calls from clients in a panic, because what they thought was an essential software update turned into a complete mess. This is usually Malware, which is junk software masquerading as a legitimate program or system update. This is usually designed for more nefarious purpose, such as gaining control of your computer, capturing keystrokes ( login and password info ) or to use your computer as part of a network of “zombie” computers manipulated to do a particular distributed computing project.

This happens to a lot of people, and usually when you are in a hurry and quickly click on something you didn’t read or investigate properly.

It’s frustrating, and it can do real damage to your computer, so I want to help you avoid falling into these scammers’ elusive traps.

Malicious software can come in many forms, but the most obvious are webpages that demand you download a software update. There are pages that appear to be from familiar businesses like Adobe, and some won’t allow you to close the page without making a selection in a pop-up window. Typically, you’ll come across these when you’re looking for free streaming video or free software. You may also get them via email if your spam filter doesn’t block them.

How to outsmart the scammers:

  • Check the page URL. If the URL or website address looks unusual (instead of .com it’s .xyz or .ru ), it’s probably bad. Close it and go to the company’s page directly.
  • The messaging is overly urgent. Like if you don’t download this life-saving software update right now, your computer is going to crash. Don’t fall for that.
  • There are flashing boxes, pop-ups with a lot of !!! and strange error messages you’ve never seen before. These are meant to catch your attention and throw you into panic. Stay cool and close.
  • If by email, the from email address looks unusual, the message doesn’t look professional, and there are lots of spelling or grammar mistakes. Report it as spam and delete.
  • If the page you’re on looks like the company’s page, but the logo is the wrong colour or font or it’s spelled wrong. Close it!
  • Spammers have become so good with their techniques, that often ALL these things seem legitimate and still its a scam. I’ve seen emails that are so convincing I have to stop and think. The rule is … if you didn’t initiate it, if it came without warning, question the email, or delete it.

If you think you accidentally opened or downloaded something you shouldn’t have, close your web browser, and disconnect from the internet.

TIP: if you can’t seem to close your web browser, don’t panic..! Instead press CMD + Shift + ESC on Macintosh or CTRL + ALT + DEL on Windows and close the browser that way. Never, never call the 1-800 number on a popup to have the “Tech Support” help you with this issue. They know exactly why you are calling and will have you pay handsomely  for unnecessary software to remove the malware they have installed.

You’ll know if you’ve downloaded malware if your computer is unusually slow or you’re getting a lot of pop-ups and error or virus scan messages.

Contact me if you’re concerned you’ve downloaded malware. I can help get it off of your computer. There are programs that can do this for you, but beware: many scams pose as these programs!

If it doesn’t look right, trust your gut and don’t click on or download it. If your computer is properly maintained, you don’t need emergency updates and they typically don’t exist anyways.