Scareware is a form of online fraud that threatens the user in order to force them into paying to prevent release of sensitive information or private videos or confidential business information or to stop a virus attack etc.
Scareware is similar to software that damages your PC or accesses confidential information but does not do what is threatened – it is just an empty threat.
The scareware may be a pop-up on a website to warn of a virus attack or may be a threatening email pushing you to pay for software you don’t need or a message demanding you make payment to prevent confidential information being released.
This is called scareware, as it’s aim is to scare the user into doing something the scammer wants them to do that is against their own interest. It is often a matter of luck whether the scammer hits upon something by accident that the user may believe sufficiently that they make a payment.
The name scareware can also apply to software that makes exaggerated claims about potential damage. E.g. Registry cleaner software that claims your PC cannot run properly unless the registry is cleaned of all errors. This is not true.
Sometimes the pop-up messages are designed to look to look as if from one of the most popular anti virus or malware products or a major company such as Microsoft.
Can you identify Scareware?
Experts can tell the difference between scareware and genuine malware but for the rest of us it can be difficult.
You can do the following if you are attacked
- If the threat is that your device has a virus or other malware then close the browser (Alt-F4 usually works) or close the email programme.
- Shut downthe device and reboot it.
- Run anti-virus and anti-malware sweeps of the device.
- If the results are clear then you should be safe and it was an empty threat, but if a problem is found then you many need a computer professional to sort it out for you.
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