Scams and Scammers

Article (PSA-0024)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Scams and Scammers

There are many types of scams and scammers you may encounter throughout your life. Over the next three articles I would like to talk to you about three different types of scams you may encounter while browsing the web, answering the phone or checking your email.

In this article we will discuss “Browser Hijacks”.

This is a common type of scam/attack and can happen when you are using your computer to browse the web. Here’s how the scam works: when you visit a webpage, the scammers will have some type of “trigger” embedded in the webpage. These triggers are usually in the form of a link, image or ad. Have you ever heard of the term “clickbait”? That’s what these are: typically phrases, or pictures that many people cannot resist clicking on or rolling their mouse over. If you do click on them or roll over them with your mouse it will trigger a routine (execute code) which can then pop-up a dialog box with some kind of alarming text, such as “Virus Alert!”. Sometimes it will even be accompanied by alarming sounds, voices warning you that you have been infected or hacked and may even look like an antivirus software performing a scan and finding thousands of infections! Note – until you click something or call that number on the screen, YOU ARE OKAY. What you do next will determine the outcome of this browser hijack scam. Do they get what they want – your money, control of your computer and perhaps you via extortion or does it simply cost you a few minutes of your time … its up to you. So relax and ignore everything you see and hear on your computer in this moment. It’s all geared to induce a state of panic. Panicking makes it difficult for us to think clearly and more susceptible to making bad decisions and this is the goal of the scammers. Now that you’re relaxed, we have two tried and true methods of ending this “Browser Hijack” scam without actually being scammed. One is for computer savvy users, the other is for the rest of us. You’ll need to decide which one is right for you.

First way – perform a [CTRL]-[ALT]-[DELETE] key combination press and then select “Task Manager” from the displayed menu. This will, as the name states, open the Task Manager utility. This utility lists all the currently running processes on your computer. It can be configured to show “More details” or “Fewer details” by toggling the option in the lower left of the dialog status bar. Either view will work for our purposes. Scan the list of processes for the name of the browser you are using to browse the web. Common browser names are: Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Right-click the browser name to display a shortcut menu. From the shortcut menu select the option “End task”. This should close your browser AND the alarming virus message. Now open the same web browser you just closed and if asked to “Restore pages … ” decline. If you restore the pages, you’ll be looking at the fake virus alert page again and starting over. If this process seems a bit complex for you, then on to the second way.

The second way. Warning – this process can cause data loss for any documents, currently open on your computer, which have not been saved. If you have data which needs to be saved, I encourage you to work through the “First way”. If you absolutely can not accomplish the first way, give me a call – the number is at the end of this article.

Okay, we are going to perform what is called a “hard stop” of your computer. Press and hold your power button for 4-6 seconds, until you hear it power off. This effectively closes all programs running on your computer – including the browser hijack. This is not ideal and should only be used as a last resort to deal with the browser hijack. Once it has powered off, simply power it back on and open the same web browser. If asked to “Restore pages … ” decline. If you restore the pages, you’ll be looking at the fake virus alert page again and starting over.

In this article we talked about browser hijack scams, which are pretty straight forward to deal with. In the next article we’ll discuss some basic phone scams and what you can do to protect yourself from them.

If you have questions give PSA Computer Services a call at (707) 506-6802.