Beware of Scareware on Your Computer Screen - NBC Connecticut

Beware of Scareware on Your Computer Screen

(Published Tuesday, March 1, 2016)

Computer experts are warning users about those pop-up ads that say a device is infected with a virus.

It looks authentic, but it’s not. The fake virus alerts are called “scareware”, because they look so alarming they scare you into thinking something is wrong.

The alerts sometimes take over your entire computer screen.

“It said you are infected,” Lisa Skwiot said. “Then all of a sudden, this error message came up, it was almost full screen and it had all these error messages, error numbers or whatever and to call Microsoft with the phone number immediately.”

Skwiot thought Microsoft was trying to warn her about a serious virus, so she called the number. That’s when she said a woman claiming to be a Microsoft technician said she needed to scan her computer right away.

“She told me she would have to gain access to my computer to see what the problem was,” Skwiot said.

Skwiot allowed the woman remote access to her computer and nervously watched for about seven minutes while the woman went through her computer files.

“She was able to get right in it. I could see everything she was doing,” Skwiot said. “At one point she was almost yelling at me because I had Trojans and worms and all this stuff.”

The woman said she could take care of the problem, but it would cost $189.00. She pressured Skwiot to pay the fee right away. However, when Skwiot didn’t, the woman hung up and vanished from her computer.

“I was like, I don’t think this is Microsoft.

She was right. It was not Microsoft. In a statement, Microsoft said:

“Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you.”

Skwiot handles her personal affairs such as banking and bill paying from her home computer. She worried what the woman might have added or taken from her computer while she had remote access.

NBC Connecticut had her computer sent to P.C. Development Group in Windsor to get checked out. Owner Stan Gryskiewicz said they did a thorough virus scan, and Skwiot’s computer was healthy.

“So it looks like when they logged in, they didn’t leave any traces, they didn’t put anything else on your system,” Gryskiewicz said to Skwiot. “You are very, very lucky.”

But he warned things could have turned out much differently. Gryskiewicz said several of his customers have lost money and personal information after falling victim to “scareware”, and the “Fake Microsoft phone tech scam”.

“They could have done plenty of damage though,” Gryskiewicz said. “They could have deleted files. They could have put something on there to allow them to get back in at a later date.”

Skwiot said the because the “scareware” took over her entire screen, she felt she had little choice but to call the number advertised on the phony virus alert.

Gryskiewicz said when that happens, it’s just best to turn your computer off.

Microsoft says you can get a free computer scan from the real Microsoft by clicking here.

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