"Scareware" on websites may not harm your computer, but it could harm your bank account

Published: Jul. 23, 2017 at 11:44 PM CDT
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You may have heard of malware, a malicious software that may damage your computer system, but have you heard of scareware? The scareware may not damage your computer, but it could scare users into giving their credit card information to scammers.

Dianne Farha often surfs the web for new recipes but she nearly clicked on a recipe for disaster. When the website opened, the screen started flashing and saying “warning, warning, waring” and that if she turned off her computer, all data would be lost. Farha had clicked on a website that was infected with scareware, a tactic used to scare people into giving up their personal information to scammers.

The flashing warning told her to call a phone number, and a man who said he was a Microsoft told her “I’m a computer specialist and I need to get onto your computer,” Farha said. But something didn’t seem right, so she hung up. Farha said he had heard of scammers who pose as computer technicians to trick you into giving up your credit card number so they can “fix” the problem.

Even though she hung up the phone, the screen still said that if she turned off the computer, it would be wiped, so she called Microsoft. “The Microsoft man said well just completely shut down your computer, and everything was fine then,” Farha said.

Farha feels lucky that she knew better than to let someone on her computer or get her personal information, but says this isn’t the first time someone has tried using technology to scam her. “There have been people who have called me and said ‘we’re from Microsoft and we need you to get on the computer,’” she explained. Farha went on to say that she thinks she is targeted by scammers because she is older, and thinks scammers try to target the older generation because they may be more trusting than younger generations.

After telling others in her retirement community about her experience with scareware, she learned that a friend of hers had given their credit card information away to a scammer, but was able to cancel the card before damage was done. She hopes sharing her story will be a good warning to other seniors, and says it won’t stop her from using the web.