Dan the Computer Man

Your Computer's Best Friend
In-home computer repair in the San Antonio area

Protect Yourself from Fraudulent Takeovers

Know what to do in a panic

One of the most prevalent hazards on the internet is designed to scare you into talking with scammers, who will then further frighten you into giving them money!

Your head is your most important tool to avoid being defrauded. There is no technological solution to prevent human deception. You must recognize the fraud and refuse to fall for the trick.

All images have been sent to me by clients. Click them to enlarge.

Their message

These fake messages will take over your screen and present you with an alarming lie about your computer. Usually it's about viruses and the computer being locked.
The message pretends to come from an authoritative source such as Microsoft or an antivirus vendor, and says you should call them at the number on the screen (which would only connect you to a scammer).
Often the computer really is immobilized. And, to boost your panic, the speakers will often play a loud voice announcing the problem, sometimes with siren sounds, and it won't quit!

How to stop them

Do not call the number! This is fake!

Your real goals are to

  1. Recognize the fraud
  2. Make the message go away
In most of the pictures, you can see it's just a browser tab or window. If you can close that tab or window, you have solved the problem.
But if you can't,
  • Shut off the computer forcibly by holding down the power button for 10 seconds. File this trick away in case the time comes that you need it!

  • Then you can try to turn on the computer normally again.
    If the message comes back right away, you probably didn't hold the power button long enough; try it again for 10 seconds.
    When you re-open the browser, often it will ask if you want to restore the session from before. Of course not! That would restore the fraudulent message.

    For the technically proficient, other more elegant methods may be used, such as Task Manager's End Task function. Sometimes a keyboard command is necessary to close the offending program, such as ALT-F4 in Windows, or CTRL-F4 to close only the single tab (esp. in Firefox). For Apple, use Command-Q to quit a program.

    What's next?

    That's it! You're done! If you refused to take the bait, you do not have a problem; there is no virus, not even a need to run a scan. (In some of these pictures, you can see an active antivirus in the bottom right near the time, as if it were helpful.)

    However, if you did get suckered, you may need to take further action.
    If you call them, usually the scammer will convince you to install remote access software to allow them to control your computer. Then they will tell you even more lies to convince you to pay them to solve a problem you don't have! If this has begun (or advanced), you may need help removing remote access software so they can't get back in. Let me know if you need help.