The biggest threat on the Internet today is a bit different from the viruses and spyware of the past. Scamware is fraudulent software used by identity thieves to try to get a credit card number from unsuspecting victims. The most common form of scamware is a fake antivirus program that first appears as a pop-up message telling you that you are infected. If you click on that message instead of just closing it, you spring the trap. A fake scan runs, then tells you that you only have the trial version of the software, and have to buy it to clean your computer. People who fall for this con have at best paid for nothing, and at worst become victims of identity theft. There are too many of these fake antivirus programs to name, and many of them mimic the look and feel of real products.
Fake utilities are another form scamware is starting to take. Though there are a lot of them, the one I have seen the most is called system fix. It, and others like it will tell you things like your hard drive is failing, or that you memory is causing errors. They will falsely promise that if you buy the full version of their software, it will fix these problems. If you actually had a failing hard drive or bad memory, no software would fix that. You would need to replace the failing parts.
If you see such messages, promptly close them and run your real anti-virus and anti-spyware tools. If they will not run or do not fix the problem, you might try starting your computer in safe mode, then trying to run scans. If that fails, you will need to bring your computer in for service.
If you have already been tricked into giving scammers a credit card number, call the issuing bank at once, and let them know you have been tricked into buying a fraudulent product by an online scammer. They will cancel the charge, and may have to issue you a new credit card with a different account number.
©2012 Matthew G. Brown