A Pop Up Based Tech Support #Scam Catches Out A Pair Of Seniors…. Here’s What I Found When I Investigated It…. And What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

Last Monday I got a panic call from a client of mine who’s parents were apparently sucked into a tech support scam of some sort. Even though it was a holiday in Canada,I dropped what I was doing and went over there to investigate.

When I arrived the computer was unplugged. This was a good move because leaving the computer on and connected to the Internet allows the scammers to do whatever they were going to do would have been a bad move as I discovered later. I then powered on the computer and disconnected it from the Internet to see what the scammers did while interviewing the victims to understand what happened.

Apparently, the couple were browsing for recipes and a pop up appeared that they couldn’t get rid of claiming that their computer was infected with malware, and they had to immediately call a number to remove it. So that’s what they did. The first thing that the scammers did is that they used GoToAssist to gain remote access to the computer as I found evidence in the browser history that the couple went to the GoToAssist website. To be safe, I found the remnants of GoToAssist and deleted them. Then the scammers tried to talk the couple into buying an anti-virus application. I found that they installed that anti-virus package on their computer which I promptly deleted. But what they also did was install a piece of software called UltraViewer. It’s a piece of remote access software made by a software company in Vietnam. From the looks of it, the scammers planned to make a return visit to this computer to perhaps steal data. This too was removed. I then ran an anti-virus scan which came up clean. I also deleted the cache and browsing history of the browser to make sure that there was nothing else hanging around.

The final thing that I did was to check the browser for any add ons that were added (there were none) and the computer’s network settings for any changes (there were no changes). That way I was sure that the scammers didn’t leave anything that might be a problem later.

All told, this wasn’t so bad and it could have been worse. But this scam was shut down quickly. I will follow up with them a couple of times to make sure that all is good.

Fake pop ups tell users that there is a security threat or technical problem with their computer. They instruct users to call a telephone number specified on the pop-up in order to pay for technical support to resolve this threat. Some of these pop ups will even tell you that bad things will happen if you close the pop up. Or closing the pop up brings up another one. These pop up scams are evil.

Scammers use these pop-up scams to make money. They prey on concerned users who want to ensure their computer is secure, extorting money from them to fix problems and resolve threats that do not exist. But here’s some tips on how to deal these scams:

  1. Look for spelling mistakes and unprofessional images: To identify a fake pop-up, look closely at the information being displayed in the pop-up. Are there any spelling mistakes? Do the images look professional? Poor spelling and grammar and unprofessional imagery often suggest that a pop-up is fake.
  2. Try to close your browser: Fake pop-ups may cause your browser to switch to full screen mode. If your browser is on full screen mode and you see a suspicious pop-up, try to minimize or close your browser. If you are unable to minimize or close your browser, it is likely that the pop-up you are seeing is a scam. Be careful when trying to close or minimize the pop up itself: the minimize and close buttons usually aren’t real. They’re just images of real buttons on a button and by clicking on them you are responding to the pop-up. And if all else fails, you can try using Task Manager in Windows or the Force Quit option on Mac to force your browser to quit. If for some reason that won’t work, call a professional for help.
  3. Clear the browser history and cache: Sometimes, these pop ups will return even if you quit the browser. So your next step is to clear the browser history and cache to stop that from happening. Here are instructions to do this for every major browser. This is also a good thing to do even if the pop ups don’t return as this is a good safety measure.
  4. Run a virus scan: While unlikely, it is a possibility that the scammers might have dropped something onto the computer via a pop up. I have seen browser add ons being added. But it is possible that a virus could enter the system via a pop up. Thus it is a good step to make sure that the system is clean by running an anti-virus scan to make sure that the system is clean.

If you’re unsure if your computer is clean, or you aren’t comfortable doing the above steps, shut down the computer and call a professional for help.

And if there’s one thing that I can leave you with, let it be this:

  • While your internet security provider may offer technical support over the phone, they will not demand that you call them. Especially not via a pop-up.
  • Your anti-virus or internet security software does not require you to call anyone in order to work. Threats are normally resolved within the software itself.
  • If a pop-up is demanding that you call a number in order to resolve a security threat or fix a technical issue, it is likely to be a pop-up scam.

If you keep those in mind, you can browse the Internet safely. And more importantly, not become a victim of a pop up scam.

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