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Police warn of fake anti-virus alert scam

WINCHESTER, Va. (WHSV) — A scam involving fake anti-virus alerts on computers is becoming increasing popular in the Winchester area, prompting the Winchester Police Department to issue a warning to citizens.

In one recent case, a woman lost $350 to the scam, while another man lost $250.

This is not a new scam by any means, but it remains a dangerous one and it’s one becoming more common in the area of the Shenandoah Valley. When someone thinks they’re clicking an alert about a virus, crooks actually infect that computer with a virus, causing it to lock up. They then have complete remote access to the computer, leading them to be able to access personal data such as passwords, bank accounts or credit card information.

—HOW THE SCAM WORKS—

Victims receive a pop-up on their computer screen. It says their computer has been infected with a dangerous virus and they need to pay to have it removed. The scammer provides a phone number with the pop-up message.

If someone calls that number, the scammers ask for a check or credit card number so they can repair the computer remotely. Those who have fallen victim report the callers often have thick accents and claim to be with Microsoft.

—WHAT YOU SHOULD DO—

First of all, NEVER click on pop-up alerts that you did not request to open. Don’t even click on the ‘X’ in the corner of the window to close the alert, because that can actually cause more pop-ups to appear.

Instead, hit control + alt + delete to view a list of programs currently running and delete the pop-up alert from the list of running programs.

Alternatively, you can use the Alt + F4 keyboard shortcut to manually close whatever window is active on your computer.

—ADDITIONAL WARNINGS—

Police offer additional warnings about computer scams:

• Microsoft will never prompt you to call an 800 number for tech support – you should always be the one to initiate a call for help.
• Use reputable pop-up blocker software to avoid pop-ups on your computer. Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
• NEVER open email attachments unless you can verify the sender and you trust them.
• NEVER click on the links in spam email.
• Scammers commonly use high pressure sales tactics to convince you to buy NOW! Practice a healthy dose of skepticism.