SCAMwatch is warning consumers to be wary of bogus security software or scareware that tricks people with fake pop-up anti-virus alerts.

You may have received a pop-up warning that your computer is infected, asking you to click on a link to update your anti-virus. These pop-ups are designed to trick you into paying for bogus security software and/or obtain your credit card or personal information. Never click on pop-up anti-virus alerts.

SCAMwatch is aware that scammers are infecting computers by using worms—malicious software that takes control of data on your computer. Worms infect computers through the transfer of data from one computer to another. They can be hidden in legitimate computer programs or stowed away on USB drives or other portable storage devices (e.g. for moving music, videos, games or other data between computers).

It is important that you do not give your personal details, such as credit card and bank account details, to companies you have never heard of or pop-ups that appear on your computer, particularly virus alerts. When choosing an anti-virus program, make sure it’s from a proven, reputable provider.

Although the majority of anti-virus pop-up alerts are fake, if you do receive a warning from your anti-virus provider that you think is legitimate, don’t click on the pop-up. Check directly at either the provider’s websiteyou can do this by typing in the URLor ask a computer professional.

Warning signs

  • Fake anti-virus spyware programs often generate more 'alerts' than the software made by reputable companies.
  • You may be bombarded with pop-up alerts, even when you're not online.
  • Scammers commonly use high-pressure sales tactics to convince you to buy NOW!
  • The alert may request you to pass on the 'warning' to 'others in your address book' or 'everyone you know'.
  • Broken or oddly phrased English.
  • The message is not addressed to a specified recipient—instead, it is addressed to the 'account holder' or uses another generic title.
  • If your computer has been infected, it may dramatically slow down. Other signs your computer has been infected include new desktop icons, new wallpaper or your default homepage being redirected to another site.

Protect yourself

  • NEVER click on pop-up alerts! Don't even click on the cross to delete the pop-up alert as this may result in getting more pop-ups. The best way to delete pop-ups is to hit control, alt and delete to view a list of programs currently running and delete the pop-up alert from the list of running programs.
  • Use reputable pop-up blocker software to avoid pop-ups on your computer.
  • Keep your computer updated with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software and use a good firewall.
  • Be careful of free software that is designed to protect your computer.
  • NEVER open email attachments unless you can verify the sender and you trust them.
  • NEVER click on links in spam email.
  • NEVER rely on the contact details provided in a pop-up message. Instead, find your anti-virus vendor's contact details through an internet search.
  • Avoid questionable websites. Some sites may automatically download malicious software on to your computer.


Report the matter via the report a scam page on SCAMwatch.

More information

Explore SCAMwatch to find out more about scams that commonly target Australians and how you can protect yourself.

Information and tips on how to secure your computer and stay safe online can be found on the Stay Smart Onlinewebsite.

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Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out your personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.