Boo! Scareware Attacks on the rise

Better Business Bureau offers advice on how to protect your computer

Just in time for Halloween, the latest phishing scam, called ‘scareware’ is yet another horrifying technique used by hackers to steal personal information and spread viruses online.

“Scareware attacks are cropping up everywhere and are effective because they prey on anxiety and fear,” said Danielle Primrose, Better Business Bureau (BBB) President and CEO. “The first thing you think is that my system is compromised or has been locked by authorities, but in reality, there practical steps computer users can take to protect themselves.”

Computer users are reporting being “locked out” of their computers after receiving pop-up messages warning them their computer has been associated with child pornography. These warning messages can sometimes claim to be from the RCMP, CSIS, or even a bogus law enforcement organization like the “Canadian Police Cyber Crimes Centre.” The message requests that the recipient pay $100 dollars via online money transfer so their computer can be “unlocked”.

These types of messages, commonly known as ‘scareware’ or ‘ransomware’, are designed to create panic for victims who often respond by sending money quickly in hopes of removing the problem.

Following are steps computer users can take to protect their computer from a ‘scareware’ attack:

Protect your computer. Install updates to your operating system, purchase antivirus software from a name you trust and keep that software up to date.  Also make sure that all security patches and updates are installed for your Web browser and programs like Adobe Flash Player. Never download anti-virus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an e-mail.

Avoid clicking pop-ups and suspicious links. Never click on a pop up that claims your computer has a virus. Don’t click on links or attachments in e-mails sent to you by someone you don’t know.

Use tools to block pop-ups. Turn on your browser’s pop-up blocking feature to help reduce the threat of unwanted pop-up ads.

Take immediate action during an attack. If you receive a scareware pop up window, experts recommend forcing the window to close through your task manager. To do this, hold down ctrl, alt, and delete at the same time, open your task manager, find the browser in the list of running programs and click “end task.” Finally, run an antivirus scan with legitimate, trusted software.

Report the scam.

If you’ve received a scareware message, please contact your local police office and the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) to report it:

For more advice on fighting off hackers and staying safe online, visit

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