Saanich Police are warning residents of “scareware,” a computer-related scam that has recently defrauded several locals out of hundreds of dollars.
The scam uses pop-up advertisements that trick users into believing their equipment has been infected with a virus, causing them to panic and pay a fee for its “removal” or inadvertently give away their personal information. The pop-up may cause the computer to slow down or freeze, forcing the user to see nothing but the pop-up window.
“In most cases, the computers have not been infected, or at least not at the point of the original contact,” said Sgt. Steve Eassie in a statement. “Due to panic, some people start to push buttons or close the pop-up, which can potentially lead to malware being downloaded onto the computer.”
The pop-up lists a phone number to call to remove the aforementioned virus, with a person on the line giving them instructions. The caller may be duped into performing certain functions that may allow others to remotely access their personal information, such as banking info, passwords and email addresses.
Additionally, the caller may actually “infect” their own computer by following the directions, to which the person on the phone will confirm the presence of a virus and ask for credit card information to pay for the removal of the malware.
“In some cases, the caller ends up paying for the removal of malware that was never even on their computer,” said Eassie. “Just the thought and scare tactic is enough to have people panic and seek help.”
Police are reminding users not to panic if they encounter scareware and to try various methods to get out of the pop-up window, like using the task manager (ctrl + alt + del) or by turning off the computer manually.
Eassie said if a user is really concerned about their computer being infected, they should take it to a reputable local computer shop and ask that they run a virus scan to clean their computer of any malware.
The police also mentioned if you have fallen victim to the scam, unplugging your computer from the internet will prevent remote access to your computer.
Incidents can be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or at www.services.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.