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Do not respond to scam pop-up messages in your web browser

Priority Level: 
Moderate
30 October 2015

You are advised to ignore scam pop-up alerts in your web browser asking you to phone a number to remove a virus. These alerts¾which aim to mimic genuine warnings from security software¾may appear after you open an email attachment, download files, visit websites hosting malicious software or click on a pop-up advertisement.

Stay Smart Online has received information about a fake pop-up that states ‘Chrome Browser has detected a new virus’. The fake alert goes on to say ‘WARNING! TROJAN (TRJ.DealWare.Stealth) HAS BEEN INJECTED INTO YOUR COMPUTER’ and provides a 1-800 toll free number for the recipient to call.

A second similar web browser pop-up scam has been reported, that claims Microsoft has detected a virus, again asking you to call a Network and Security Team on a toll free 1800 number to fix the virus.

Malicious pop-up messages may claim that the alleged virus or trojan cannot be picked up by ‘current virus software’ and that failure to immediately call the number will result in computer failure. They may also incorporate an ‘OK’ button that you should not click on under any circumstances, doing so may expose you to more pop-ups, or infect your computer with malware that allows an attacker to steal your personal or financial information.

To avoid damage to your device close the web browser immediately, or if you are unable to close the web browser, restart the device and run an anti-virus scan; or alternatively seek advice from an IT security professional. Do not call the toll free number provided in the pop-up. The scammer who answers may offer to sell you bogus antivirus software that also contains malware, or may request remote access to your device to fix the alleged virus. Access to your device may expose your personal or financial details that can be used for identity theft or sold to other criminals.

While most anti-virus pop-up alerts inside web-browsers are fake, you can also receive  legitimate virus warnings. If you are unsure whether it is a genuine warning  check with your installed anti-virus software provider. Alternatively visit the official virus details page of your anti-virus provider or ask a computer professional.

Staying safe

Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Also use a good firewall.

  • Never open attachments or click on links in emails unless you can verify the sender and you trust them.
  • Never rely on the contact details provided in a pop-up message. Instead, find your anti-virus vendor's contact details through their official website.
  • Avoid questionable websites. Some sites may automatically download malicious software on to your computer.
  • Use reputable pop-up blocker software to avoid pop-ups on your computer. 

More information

Information from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and CERT Australia helped in the compilation of this Alert.

The ACCC has more details on pop-ups here.