Fake tech support scams are not new. Unfortunately, they are on the rise and they are becoming more believable to the average computer user. While these scams are annoying, with a little bit of knowledge, they don't have to be a traumatic experience. Here are some facts to keep you safe and keep your money in your pocket.
1) That fake virus warning or hard drive error warning is nothing more than a web page that's been designed to panic the viewer into taking an action. Either clicking a link (don't do it), or calling a phone number (again, don't do it.). These fake support pages are typically launched from malicious ads. Macs are not immune. Macs can and do get hit by these types of attacks as well.
2) Any links you click on the fake support page could download an actual virus, ransomware, or malware. Be careful.
3) Any phone numbers that are listed on the fake support page are NOT associated with Microsoft or Apple in any way.
4) Legitimate warnings will never have a convenient phone number to call. Microsoft does not want you calling them for technical support. A major corporation might be paying Microsoft for support, but the normal home user is not.
5) These fake support pages can be crafted to look like actual BSOD errors. The main difference being that the fake BSOD will have a phone number to call. Some even play an alarm. Real BSOD errors are system errors. Real BSOD errors normally freeze the PC. Real BSOD errors won't have any sounds. That means no alarms and no computerized voices urging you to call a phone number. If the BSOD error is in your browser, it is fake.
6) If you happen to stumble upon a fake support page that has an alarm or computerized voice talking about how your computer is infected, remember that the goal of the page is to make you panic. Take a deep breath and if possible turn off your PCs speakers. You can typically mute your computers volume from the Windows Task Bar, as well. Now you can rationally deal with the fake support page.
7) Microsoft will never call you to tell you that your computer is infected. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, hang up the phone. Do not engage with any callers, or try to mess with them. Under no circumstances should you allow them to connect to your computer.
8) So you got hit. Now what? Hit Crtl+Alt+Delete on your keyboard. That brings up the Windows Security Screen. Select "Task Manager". You can also right click on your Windows Task Bar or the Windows Start Button (Windows 10) and select "Task Manager". Hitting Ctrl+Shift+Escape will bring up the "Task Manager" directly. You can run "Task Manager" by clicking the Windows Key+R and typing "taskmgr" in the "Run" window. Finally, using File Explorer, you can navigate to C:\Windows\System32. Scroll down until you find taskmgr.exe. Double click it.
Once you have "Task Manager" up, look for whatever browser you are using. In Windows 10, you'll look under the "Processes" tab. Some older versions of Windows will have an "Applications" tab. Highlight your browser by clicking on it. You can do one of two things: right click the browser and click "End Task" or click "End Task" at the bottom of "Task Manager". You might have to do this a few times. Also, If you have multiple browser tabs open, you will see your browser listed multiple times. If you see your browser listed with a ">" to the left side, try closing that one first. You'll know you're successful when the fake support page is gone.
Occasionally, "Task Manager" won't be able to close the fake support page. At this point your only course of action is press and hold the computer's power button until the computer shuts off. Wait 5-10 seconds before turning it back on. After that, you should be good to go.
9) Apple computers are similar in that "Force Quit" accomplishes the same task as Windows Task Manager.
10) When you re-open your browser, if you are given the option to restore your last browsing session, you must say NO. If you say yes, you will be restoring the fake support page.
You can view, printout, or download a PDF with these instructions here: Instructions PDF