Check out these tips for avoiding harmful Web pop-up scams

The following post is from Kirsten Kliphouse, Corporate Vice President of Customer Service and Support at Microsoft.


We received great feedback on our blog post about protecting yourself against increasingly sophisticated tech support phone scams. Another well-known trick is the website pop-up, that little browser window that sometimes appears while you’re searching the Web.

While some pop-ups are useful and important, others are traps that attempt to mislead you into revealing sensitive personal or financial information, paying for fake anti-virus software, or even installing malware and viruses onto your device.

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It might happen like this: You’re searching online for inexpensive airfares and you click on a site you haven’t heard of before because it offers the best deal. As you’re reviewing the ticket options, a small browser window suddenly pops up with brightly flashing text warning that your PC is compromised, or claiming you’re a million-dollar prize winner if you “click now.” Some may even copy Microsoft graphics so they appear genuine even to a more experienced PC user, making them especially dangerous.

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We know that receiving these pop-ups can be alarming and distressing, and unfortunately, because they’re so cheap to create, scammers will continue to use them. The good news is that a little bit of caution can go a long way to ensuring your safety when browsing the Web.

My No. 1 rule? Never visit an unfamiliar website that was shared by an unfamiliar source—that’s a huge red flag. Also, take care not to click on any linked images from a source you don’t know or trust. If you do click on a pop-up and it asks you for any personal information, close it immediately, even if it looks legitimate. Remember, Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you.

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For more information on how to protect yourself from these and other scams, see our Web article on how to recognize fake virus alerts and on how to protect yourself against Web scams.

Here are a few more links we think you’ll find useful:

· The Microsoft Safety & Security Center is a hub of information and resources dedicated to helping keep your PC safe from threats, including viruses, malware and phishing attempts.

· The Federal Trade Commission “Free” Security Scans webpage provides advice on what to look out for in unsolicited pop-ups for free security offers, as well as links to report fraud.

· In Canada, the Anti-Fraud Centre can provide support.

· In the United Kingdom, you can report fraud to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

If you think you’re the victim of a pop-up or phone scam on your PC, please let us know. You can reach out directly to one of our tech support experts dedicated to helping you at the Microsoft Answer Desk. We know how upsetting it feels to be targeted by scammers, and we want to help.