Don’t be Scared by “Scareware”

Andrew Nichel, owner of Techmate in Buffalo, reminds victims of scareware to never call the number provided. Instead, they should close out the page and shut down the computer, then talk to a trusted computer technician if the problem continues. (Photo by Brenda Erdahl)

By Brenda Erdahl It’s a sunny Sunday morning and you are idly thumbing through your e-mail when suddenly an alarm sounds on your computer; deep blaring noises that sound like the nuclear alarms of the Cold War. Then a mechanical voice warns you “YOUR COMPUTER ALERTED US IT IS INFECTED WITH A VIRUS SPYWARE. IT IS SENDING YOUR CREDIT CARD INFORMATION AND FINANCIAL PASSWORS TO HACKERS EVERYWHERE. IF YOU CLOSE THIS PAGE WE WILL BE FORCED TO DISABLE YOUR COMPUTER, SO NO FURTHER DAMAGE WILL BE DONE TO OUR NETWORK! CALL THIS NUMBER IMMEDIATELY!” What do you do? Don’t ever call the number is what computer technician Andrew Nickel said. They are scary words but that is all, and they are doing exactly what they are meant to do, which is to scare people into divulging valuable information. Professionals like Nickel, owner of Techmate in Buffalo, refer to these tactics as “scareware.” It’s an elusive method of attack, unpredictable because it comes disguised as legitimate ads and all too common in today’s technological world. “They use website domains that last for 18 hours at the most, so they can’t be tracked and then they are gone. If you were to try calling the number the next day, it would be disconnected,” Nickel said. Websites battle constantly with these scammers who at first seem to be on the level. It’s easy to buy pop up ads on Pinterest or other popular sites, Nickel said. The ads are usually only there for a few hours before the websites figure it out and shut them down, but then the scam artists just move on to a new site.

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