Scareware ads: Watch for scams

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A warning for computer users: Be careful when you surf the internet. Experts say crooks are looking to cash in if you click on Scareware ads.

Simply put, these ads are fake anti-virus programs -- they pop-up and trick you into believing your computer is infected with a virus. If you fall for the deception, you could lose money and end up with a computer with major problems.

Kevin Boynton is not the doctor you call when you get sick, but if your computer gets a virus, he's your man. His official title: Chief of Computer Medicine with the Computer Doctor of Richmond.

A common case he treats: scareware or malware ads. "Surf cautiously, the bad guys are out there in full force and they are making a lot of money doing this," said Boynton.

The Scareware typically looks a legit program and comes in the form of those annoying pop-up ads -- they may look legit, but they are not. The program is designed to fool you into thinking your computer is infected with a virus. The aim is to get you to sign up and pay for a fake anti-virus program.

"What it is doing is holding your computer hostage and trying to get the customer to give them their credit card number and charge them $50 to $100," Boynton said. He adds if you get duped -- not only are you out of money, but you will be left with a computer that needs technical surgery.

Experts say even though you consider a site safe, crooks manage to sneak in those unsafe ads -- even closing the window could harm your computer. The Computer Doctor said, "It's not even safe to click the "X" because that whole entire window you are seeing is actually one button and if you touch it the download will automatically start. The best thing to do is to actually close out the browser." Boynton says your best defense -- is installing a legitimate Anti-Virus program and keeping your computer updated.

The Computer Doctor says parents should also talk to their children about the danger of Scareware ads. He said, "Companies are not giving away free I-Pods or a free Wii by hitting the monkey with the banana; don't click on that kind of stuff."

Boynton says if you don't want to pay for an anti-virus program there are plenty of safe ones that are free. Some of his recommendations are, AVG's free antivirus, Web of Trust, K-9 Web Protection and Microsoft Security Essentials. He says bottom line -- be careful what you click online.

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