Your computer helps you to get through your day. It allows you to send emails, surf social media sites, and connect with others like never before. If you aren't cautious while you're using it, it may also expose you to nasty viruses and malware, too. While having an anti-virus and malware program installed is very helpful, one of the best steps you can take is to learn about what you should avoid in the first place. In this article, you'll learn about six types of scam software you should always consider risky.
Browser toolbars install themselves in a number of different ways. Most often, they are packaged with free software that installs with teeny-tiny print. You simply don't realize you're installing them. While most won't exactly cause a catastrophic crash, they certainly will slow your system down.
Depending on the toolbar in question, they could even allow hackers access to your machine.
The most common style of toolbar to encounter is a search toolbar. How these work is by redirecting you to sponsored ads or search results instead of your traditional search page. Often, these pages look very similar to major search engines, so it's easy to be fooled.
If you click on the results, you may be presented with a download, an advertisement, or even a scam. They are convincingly real in appearance, and have been known to fool both the computer-savvy and the computer illiterate alike.
The toolbar creator makes money each time you search and each time you click on any of the links, lining their pockets while making you frustrated with the terrible results.
How to Avoid It
The best way to prevent yourself from accidentally installing them is to think critically about the software you install. People who program software need to make money, too. Very few programs are truly free. Even if the software itself is free, you're still paying for it via ad revenue.
Whenever you install new software, scan it for viruses before opening it and then read through all of the intro text and fine print first. Look for checkboxes or radio buttons that allow you to "opt out" of the toolbar. If it's a mandatory install, find another option.
Most people don't understand the difference between scams and real computer warnings, and this leaves them extremely vulnerable to manipulation by hackers.
That's where scareware does its job best—it tries to fool you into thinking you have a virus, a hardware error, or something wrong with your registry. Then, it demands a ransom in order to fix the problem. Just pay a few dollars, and the company will repair the issue for you remotely.
Seems too easy, doesn't it? That's because it is.
Scareware installs itself via a virus or malware. Then, it usually flashes a warning message on your computer. Often, it will suggest that you have a virus or malware program that needs to be removed right away.
You, the unsuspecting responsible computer owner who just wants to protect their machine, will dial up a telephone number and hand over your credit card info without ever knowing it's a scam. Just like that, you've placed your financial identity in the hands of people who may steal it.
How to Avoid It
Avoiding scareware is easy. Protect your machine by running an antivirus, firewall, and spyware program at all times. If you happen to see a warning come up, write down what it says. Try searching for the text used within it and you'll probably find a post from someone else who's had the same issue.
Once you've identified that it's scareware, you'll need to remove it. Shut down your computer and go into safe mode. Run a virus scan and malware check and dump all cookies and cache files in your chosen browser. Then, restart and try again. If it persists, try the instructions found here. If that fails, too, you may need the help of a PC repair specialist.
As technology advances and provides us with more ways to stay connected than ever, so to does the need for you to educate yourself on how to stay safe when you use it. Understanding the basics of both computer hardware and software will not only help you to root out scams, but will also allow you to identify real issues, should they occur.