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About Scareware Scams

Scareware is malicious software or pop-ups designed to trick computer users into visiting malware-infested websites, downloading malicious software, or calling a phone number.


Scareware usually follows a pattern. Pop-ups suddenly warn you that dangerous files or porn have been found on your computer, and you should click or call to “remove the threats.” These pop-up scams are designed to look like genuine warning messages. Using social engineering tactics, scareware pop-ups often:

  • Copy logos of legitimate tech companies like Microsoft, HP, Norton, and countless others.
  • Show a threat or a scary warning of infected files on your computer
  • Display a progress bar to make it seem like it is scanning your computer
  • Contain flashing red images and sometimes even have alarm tones or a prerecorded voice
  • May freeze other items on the computer so you can’t close out of it, or it won’t stay closed
  • Use all CAPS and large warnings to urge you to act fast or act now


They use these tactics to incite a feeling of panic to encourage you to act without first taking time to think through the message in front of you.


To remove a scareware pop-up, don’t click on it to call the phone number! Instead, simply shut down your computer hold down the power button for about 10 seconds if the computer is frozen. Then, contact an IT professional to scan your machine for malicious software.

Jazmin Mehne
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