Many websites use pop-ups to engage with users, advertise items, and encourage shopping. Most people find pop-ups annoying because they damage user experience and usually appear when you need them the least. Luckily, you can fight them by installing an ad blocker on your browser.
While typical website pop-ups are generally despised, they are not harmful. However, the internet is also full of other kinds of pop-ups — bad ones.
How do fake pop-ups work?
Fake pop-ups have malicious intentions, and you should avoid clicking them at any cost. You may receive a fake virus alert claiming that your device has been infected and you need to install antivirus software. However, if you pay for the alleged antivirus, your credit card details will be intercepted and you obviously won’t get the promised protection.
Clicking on a malicious pop-up in some cases can trigger a malware download. This can result in data theft, ransomware attacks, and browser hijacking. It can be hard to close the pop-up or locate the exit icon, increasing the chances you accidentally click on it.
You won’t encounter fake virus warning pop-ups on healthy sites. However, if you happen to visit an infected website, you will most likely bump into malicious pop-ups. Fake virus warnings were more common in the past when computers lacked decent security and internet users had a poor understanding of secure online behavior. But they’re live and operating even now, so you have to be cautious when surfing the internet.
How to know if it’s a fake pop-up
- Asking for payment. If a pop-up claims that you have a virus and you need to pay to get rid of it, it’s definitely a scam. Legitimate antivirus software companies don’t work like this. They offer a subscription to protect your device, and they don’t chase you around the web asking you to pay.
- Creating panic. A fake virus warning pop-up usually tries to scare you so you react impulsively and pay for the alleged antivirus. It can claim that you have several hundreds of threats on your system and offer you a fix. However, these numbers have nothing to do with reality.
- Poor design. Some fake pop-ups look primitive, suggesting that they haven’t been designed by a professional. However, they might also imitate legitimate antiviruses, so don’t get fooled by appearances.
- Grammar mistakes. This shouldn’t be considered as a good rule of thumb, but some pop-ups contain grammar mistakes.
- Encouraging you to call. Fake pop-ups often contain a phone number that you should call to “resolve the issue.” If you call the number, scammers will try everything to persuade you that your system is at risk.
What should you do if you see a fake virus alert?
Sometimes it can be hard to identify if a pop-up is malicious. However, if something raises suspicion, it’s better not to click on an ad, because it can get you in trouble. Here’s what you need to do in order to remove an unwanted pop-up.
- Close your browser. Some pop-ups are resistant and it can be complicated to remove them. The best way is to close your browser and then reopen it to continue surfing the web.
- Scan your device. If you’ve accidentally clicked on a pop-up or you’re experiencing problems with your device, run a deep antivirus scan. Most antiviruses today detect threats and warn you about them automatically, but scanning your device manually is also recommended from time to time.
How to prevent fake pop-ups
If you want to secure your device, follow these cybersecurity tips to avoid malware, fake pop-ups, and other internet threats.
- Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments. One click on a malicious link can put your security at risk. Hackers use phishing to deploy malware, steal personal information, and even hijack your browser.
- Use an ad blocker. An ad blocker hides unwanted ads and pop-ups, so you can browse the internet without disturbance. It not only improves your user experience but also helps you to fight fake pop-ups.
- Never postpone updates. Always update your software, OS, and browser on time. Otherwise, criminals can exploit a bug that was patched months ago and infect your device.
- Use unique passwords. If the worst has happened and you clicked on a fake pop-up, there’s a chance that you can end up with spyware or adware. It’s important to use unique passwords to protect all your accounts, so if one is compromised, others will remain secure.
- Stay away from fishy sites. Internet users typically experience cybersecurity problems on suspicious porn, gambling, and torrenting websites. Stay away from any illegal pages. They often store malware and can seriously damage your device.
- Use a VPN. A virtual private network encrypts your internet traffic and hides your IP address, improving your security. You can install a VPN app on your computer, smartphone, or tablet and shield your browsing activity with encryption wherever you go. NordVPN even has the Threat Protection feature, which blocks websites known for storing malware and serving annoying pop-ups.
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