A friend was browsing the internet one day a while back when he encountered a pop-up notification saying that he had been hacked and needed to call Microsoft specialists to clean his computer. He made that call. If you see a similar warning, as I did this morning (see below), don’t call. Don’t click. This warning is a tech support scam and it’s not really from your computer but from a hacker’s website. Close the browser window.
I laughed and shook my head when I saw this pop up on my screen this morning. Why? I wasn’t even using a Microsoft Windows system! I was using my ASUS Chromebook Flip, which doesn’t even have an internal operating system.
The virus warning page loaded when I was attempting to shop on LL Bean’s website. You can see from the screenshot that I mistyped llbean.com with llbean.cm. A hacker set up this website with the very intention of catching shoppers who simply misspell “.com” when they type quickly. When you call them (but you won’t, right?), they will ask for bank account or credit card information, and once they have it, they can either make purchases on your card or drain your checking account.
How did things end for my friend? I helped his wife with a little quick research and found that the company he had given his bank account information to was supposedly established in three separate locations and had two different websites with information that didn’t look like it came from a tech support company. He and his wife had to meet at the bank as soon as he could get there from work to close their checking account and open a new one. Fortunately, the hacker did not yet attempt to electronically access the account.
Here are some tips for avoiding or if you encounter the fake Microsoft virus warning, or any warning pop-up:
- Microsoft does not care about your web browsing, it’s not in the online antivirus business and does not have support agents waiting to come to your rescue via phone if you get a virus warning.
- You need to use antivirus software. Know what antivirus software you use, update it when prompted to do so and note on your calendar when the subscription will need renewing if you don’t use free antivirus software. Some folks forget what antivirus software they are using and can fall prey to pop-ups claiming to be their software. Know what it’s called folks, whether it’s Norton, AVG, Malwarebytes or another A/V software.
- Warnings from your antivirus software are unlikely to pop up in a browser window. Normally, they will pop up on the lower right corner of your display.
- Slow down, take a deep breath and pay attention to a few things if you get a warning. Is that warning right i a browser window? Look at the address bar and see if you haven’t entered a site URL incorrectly. If so, you know it’s a scam. If not, the site you were attempting to visit has been hacked. Either way, close the window. Click on nothing.
- If you really feel paranoid after encountering a fake virus pop up, use your antivirus software to run a deep or full scan. Go do something else for an hour or so while the scan runs. Depending on your system (age of the computer, hard drive size, etc.), it may take much longer than an hour for a full scan. The peace of mind is worth it.
- The safest computer system you can use right now is a Chromebook (ASUS and Samsung make some excellent systems). I have a fantastic Windows laptop, but also use an inexpensive Chromebook, and that Chromebook does 98% of what my laptop does. You will need a Gmail or Google account to use a Chromebook and it will take a little adjusting to since you don’t download and install software as you do with a Mac or Windows computer. But, if you are using or can use online apps, a Chromebook may be the simple computer that will work best for you.