Has Your Computer Been Hacked, or Is It Another Phishing Scam?

How many times has this happened to you? You’re on your computer reading, catching up with friends on Facebook, or searching the internet when a pop-up window shows up claiming that your browser has been hacked or blocked. 

If it’s your first time seeing such a message splash across your screen, you’ve been lucky until now. Every day millions of computer users all over the globe see such messages whenever they surf the internet. And no, it doesn’t mean that your browser has been compromised. It’s simply pop-up phishing designed to scare you into calling the number, which scammers use to target unsuspecting victims. 

What Is Pop-Up Phishing?

Pop-ups are generated by websites to offer users additional information or guidance (such as how to fill in a form, how to apply a discount code, etc.) 

With pop-up phishing, you get something malicious disguised as a scare message to get you to act. Pop-up phishing occurs when criminals hijack legitimate websites with malware code, causing the website to spring up these “your computer has been hacked” messages whenever a new user visits the website. 

Pop-up phishing is usually so effective because of the type of message that “pops up” and the content of the message. They typically provide a phony warning to an unsuspecting website visitor, claiming that the visitor’s computer security has been compromised. The visitor is then asked to either download a necessary tool to remedy the “security threat,” such as an antivirus program (often malware in disguise), or call a phone number for “help.”

How Does Pop-up Phishing Work?

Fake pop-ups inform users that their computer is under attack or has a technical problem. They direct visitors to call a phone number listed on the pop-up to get a professional that can help resolve the danger, one that never existed in the first place.

Cybercriminals make a lot of money from pop-up phishing scams yearly. They target unsuspecting users worried about their computer’s security to extort money from them and “fix problems and resolve threats” that do not exist.

How to identify fake pop-ups

Here are different ways of spotting a fake pop-up:

Spelling Mistakes

One of the simplest ways to spot a fake pop-up is to pay attention. They are often littered with all sorts of spelling mistakes. If there’s an image on the pop-up, it’ll likely look unclear or unprofessional.

Compare it to a legitimate pop-up.

Some pop-up phishing notifications claim to be from your internet service provider. Being able to differentiate between a genuine notification from a fake can save you a lot of trouble. 

If you haven’t been paying attention to pop-ups from your antivirus software, you should start doing that now. That way, whenever you come across a fake, you can quickly tell. If you’re confused and don’t know the difference, just ignore the pop-up, open your antivirus program, and do a deep scan to see if there’s anything wrong. 

Close your browser

Most fake pop-ups put your browser in full-screen mode, and to make matters more annoying, you may find yourself unable to minimize or close your browser. This is usually a sure sign that it’s a scam. If this happens, close the browser using the Ctrl+W keyboard keys, task manager, or shut down/restart your computer. 

How To Protect Yourself Against Pop-up Phishing Scams

If a scam pop-up message appears on your screen, here’s what you should do:

  • Avoiding calling any number shown on the pop-up
  • Do not click the pop-up for any reason.
  • Close your browser using the Ctrl+W keyboard keys, task manager, or shut down/restart your computer. If you’re unable to do that, you can press-and-hold your computer’s power button to shut it down.
  • Do not share your payment and personal details with anyone.
  • Make sure your operating system and browser are up to date.
  • Before downloading any app or browser plugin, read the reviews from other users. It may just save you from downloading something dangerous.
  • Never open any attachments in spam emails, or click to “unsubscribe” from them.
  • Only go to trusted sites to download your software and apps.
  • Do not click on any links in messages, emails, or websites you aren’t familiar with. 
  • Examine the permissions that the app you wish to download is requesting to ensure it is legitimate.

For more information on how to stay safe while surfing the internet, contact us.