There you are just cruzing around the internet, checking Facebook or maybe browsing Reddit, when all of the sudden you get a pop-up message saying that something is wrong with your computer and you need to call some 1-800 number for help. You try to click the little red “x” to close the screen, but nothing seems to happen. Your computer seems to be frozen.
Don’t panic, and whatever you do, don’t call the number on the screen.
Odds are that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your computer. What you are seeing is nothing more than a pop-up ad, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill pop-up ad. It’s using a small Java script (yes, the same Java that every half-way-decent cyber security expert tells you not to install) to stop you from closing the message.
If you were to actually call the telephone number on the screen you’d more than likely be connected with some jerk in India who claims that they can fix your computer for the low price of $300, and all they’ll need is for you to let them access your computer remotely.
If you let the fellow on the other end of the line into your computer he now has access to all of your data, and that’s not good. It would be even worse if you actually gave him your credit card number in exchange for his “help” (don’t be surprised if weird charges start to appear on your card statement).
Now that you know that this is a scam, here’s how to get rid of that bogus warning:
If you’re using a Windows computer press the Control, Shift, and Escape keys at the same time. The Task Manager window should pop up. You should now see a list of all the programs currently running on your computer. Select the entry (or entries) for your browser and click “End Process”.
On a Mac press the Command, Option, and Escape keys on your keyboard. A Force Quit Applications window should pop up. Now, highlight your browser in the list, and click “Force Quit”.
Restart your browser and you’ll see that the fake error message is gone.
Just to be on the safe side, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to run a scan with your antivirus (you are using an antivirus, right?), you know, just to be absolutely certain.
Hopefully now you won’t fall for this dirty trick.