it's bad enough dealing with real viruses, worms, and other malware on your computer. Now scammers are charging to remove threats that aren't even there.
The Federal Trade Commission recently announced settlements with two operations that it accused of tricking people into believing their computers had viruses and then charging up to $429 to fix the imaginary infections. The outfits called people or used Google paid search to lure them to websites that claimed an association with reputable antivirus software makers such as McAfee and Symantec and computer titans such as Dell and Microsoft.
But there are other ways you can be bamboozled. Some websites launch pop-up windows saying that your computer is infected and offering to scan it or remove the virus—for a fee. Even more insidious are sites that stealthily install antivirus software that mimics the real thing, creating fake scan results that show widespread infection. The bogus programs often have authentic-sounding names. (We've seen System Care Antivirus and Antivirus Agent Pro.)
Such "ransomware" can disable many of your machine's functions or hide programs and data files, making it seem as though they've been deleted. Then it notifies you that it can repair the problems—again, for a fee.
Get more tips and advice in our guide to Internet security.
This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.