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Computer virus scams

What computer virus scams look like, how they works and what to do about them.

The set-up

Someone rings you out of the blue. They tell you that your computer has a virus.

The hook

They give you directions on where to look on your computer. Apparently there is a virus. You download a piece of software and sign up to a service that is meant to keep your machine safe.

The sting

There is no virus, you’ve lost your money and your computer may have been hacked.

How computer virus scams work

Computer virus scams are usually run from overseas call centres. You'll be called at home by somebody claiming to be from a technical support company. Windows Technical Services, PC Windows Support, Virtual PC Doctor and Microsoft are a few of the company names used.

The caller will tell you that your computer has a virus. They'll ask you to log on to your computer and to download a piece of software. This gives them remote access to your PC.

The caller will helpfully show you where the virus is on your computer. They'll then offer to sell you a six or twelve-month computer service contract. This is meant to protect you from any more viruses.

If you agree, the caller will take your credit card details. Or they may ask you to pay by electronic money transfer. What you don't realise is that there is no virus. The files the caller asked you to look at are a standard part of your machine. 

What's more, the scammers may have downloaded spyware onto your computer. This gives them access to personal details like email address lists and bank details. The service contract gives you little or no computer virus protection. And you may find it difficult to get rid of.

Protect yourself from computer virus scams

  • If someone calls you out of the blue to say your computer has a virus, just hang up.
  • If you've downloaded any software onto your computer, as a result of this scam, unplug it from the internet immediately.
  • You should also run spyware and antivirus programmes and change all of your passwords, using a different computer. If in doubt, take your computer to a technician to be ‘cleaned’. Find out more about protecting your computer
  • If you've signed up to a service contract which you  believe to be a scam, contact your bank or credit-card provider immediately. You may be able to get a chargeback. Read more about chargebacks
  • Don’t be intimated by the callers, who can become very aggressive. Don’t try to get any details from them. Just hang up.

Help protect others from computer virus scams

If you've been affected by a computer virus scam please help us to warn others by reporting it to Scamwatch. Your personal details will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Report your scam here


Last updated 23 November 2012