|My grandmother was a wise and capable woman. She raised two children and put them through school; volunteered with her church groups; and led her community. When my parents gifted her with a computer, she took to it like a fish to water, firing off emails to her friends, her children, and me, her beloved grandchild. One evening, I noticed a change in the tone of her daily message. She wrote that after opening an email and clicking on a website link, she now had pop-up windows pressuring her to pay for security software to get rid of the viruses on her machine.
Being a reasonable person, she deduced this was probably a scam, but didn’t know how to make the pop-ups stop. My dad took care of the problem quickly by killing the open browser window using Task Manager. But what if my grandmother hadn’t had someone to help her? What if she had instead installed the fake security software? This is a real, and unfortunately common, scenario.
Scareware is a type of scam that scares and bullies victims into paying for any number of fake services. If you fall for scareware, the best case scenario is that you shell out some money for a piece of software that’s functionally useless. The worst case scenario is that you pay for a fraudulent service that deploys real malware on your system. In another variation of this fraud, the perpetrator will contact you directly and threaten to expose your unsavory online activities unless you pay them a hefty ransom.
Lead Security Analyst Neil J. Rubenking’s story on scareware discusses all the ways to spot the sneaky scammer tricks. One way to protect yourself from scareware tactics is to use security software vetted by experts. We have plenty of recommendations for security suites and some don’t cost even a dime. You also need to ensure your VPN works properly because you don’t want to give scammers any chance of monitoring your online activities. Our top-rated VPNs can help you enjoy a private browsing experience.
If you use common sense and maintain vigilant privacy habits online, you can avoid being a fraudster’s victim. In addition, take time to educate your family members about scareware scams. These conversations are essential to saving yourself time, money, and anxiety in the long run.
PCMag Security Analyst