Popups and panic.

This is a good time for a friendly reminder: never call any number on a popup that warns of infections, viruses or law enforcement surveillance.

We’ve seen so many cases already this summer of panicked people who got the unclosable popup: “My computer has a virus, and Apple charged me $400 for a firewall to fix it!” In talking with customers, we’ve heard that the folks on the other end of the line will either be evasive when asked if they are Apple (or the FBI, or whomever) or will flat out lie: “I’m in Cupertino at Apple, yes!”. Credit card charges as a result range from $200 on up to $700 for Firewalls/Security/Monitoring.

So let’s rehash some basics:

  • Call directly. If you get an email from your bank, a popup on a website, or any other sort of alert, don’t click. Don’t call the number listed. Look up the number independently and call directly. And remember to be careful when you search for that number. The safest thing to do is to go directly to the company’s website and look for a “contact” link. I happen to know the AppleCare number by heart (1-800-APL-CARE/1-800-275-2273), but for any other business I don’t necessarily trust Google results. You’ll see ads, for one, but also numbers from companies that claim to support the product but aren’t officially affiliated with it.
  • If someone calls to tell you your computer has a problem, hang up. This is always a scam.
  • You probably don’t have a virus, but you may have malware. If your browser is acting strangely — your Google searches redirect to Bing, you can’t change your homepage, you have ads where they don’t belong — there’s probably a program making things difficult. Bring it in and we’ll get it clean and clear. The good news is malware is removable and doesn’t break your computer!
  • If you can’t close a pop up or Safari window, go to the Apple menu and choose force quit. After force quitting Safari, hold shift down as you click on the icon again. This prevents Safari from reloading any previous windows that had opened — if you skip this step it often opens to the same windows with the same popup loaded.
  • If you have given control of your computer to a shady company, change your passwords (especially to sensitive sites), alert your credit card company and bring the machine in. In some cases this is an overabundance of caution, but we have seen folks with monitoring software on their machines as a result one of these calls.
  • Don’t install antivirus programs. Even the legitimate ones aren’t going to protect you from malware, and there are plenty of shady ones out there too. We don’t put it on our store machines or on our personal machines.

If you are ever unsure about the safety of an email, popup or just your computer, talk to us. Chances are we’ve seen it before and can set your mind at ease.