Antivirus scams are a growing problem. How do you spot one?

A rendered image of a person sitting at a laptop with a large stop sign on screen. The sign reads "fraud alert". These sorts of screen hijacking pop-ups are often used in antivirus scams.

Over the past few years, scammers have begun posing as antivirus companies. Sometimes, they send you pop-ups, claiming you have a virus. Sometimes, they call. Here’s how to know if the alert is real and what to do.

Pop-up virus alerts

If you get a pop-up telling you there’s a virus on your PC, you should think before you click. Do you recognize the program? Is it trying to send you to a website? Is there a phone number? If you don’t recognize the program, that’s a red flag. A phone number or external link? Also a red flag. Reputable antivirus programs, such as Avast, will never ask you to call a number or go to a website to scan.

The biggest red flag of all is asking for money to remove the virus. While a good antivirus program will often have a subscription cost, it will never demand money for virus removal.

Antivirus phone calls

Unless you have a managed service provider (MSP) or pay a local IT firm (like us!) to monitor your antivirus, you will never get a call about viruses on your PC. Any strange person claiming to need access to remove a virus from your computer is probably a scammer.

Before you agree to allow someone access to your computer over the phone, use caution. Ask yourself: do I know this person? Is this a company I trust? Did I contact them, or did they call me unsolicited? If they claim to be from a company you trust, tell them you need to call back, and then contact that company’s customer service line. Never call back a number that you were given in the unsolicited call. They can easily pretend to be a reputable company when they answer their phone.

I already gave them access, now what?

If you already fell for a scam of this sort and need help with your computer, please contact us! We can help you get your computer back to normal if possible, and help you find an appropriate replacement if not. We can even install Avast for you, which will mean you have a reliable antivirus program in place for the future.

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