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For your safety: understanding computer terms for illegal activity, scareware an

Scareware is aptly named!
Scareware is aptly named!
Photo courtesy of Victor Habbick/

Unfortunately, the farther computer technology advances, the more it opens ways for criminals to commit fraud. Two of the more popular methods are forms of malware called scareware and adware.

Scareware is unethically marketed software that reaches consumers via other sites they visit. It’s attention-grabbing messages that are designed to cause fear, worry, or perceived threats.

For example, you shop for gifts online at XYZ stores. Going to their homepage, you see a flashing message: “Warning! We’ve detected a (dangerous) virus on your computer! Purchase and download this (name of a program) eradicator immediately!”

Unfortunately, the “dangerous virus” was a hoax. The purchased “fix” was also. Therefore, you’re not only out the money; you've possibly installed something that does nothing but takes up vital space on your computer. Worse yet, it may cause real harm to you and your PC!

Adware is another data collecting program that’s downloaded from the Internet. It’s a lucrative way to generate advertising money for the software’s developer.

Adware gets on your computer two ways. One is you purposefully put it there. The other and most common method is when it’s unwittingly introduced because it’s hidden in other downloads, especially free software. Mainly, it’s a consequence of clicking on misleading, fraudulent pop-up windows.

Like spyware, most adware includes mechanisms that gather, monitor, and report pertinent personal information. It follows and remembers your browsing habits. Furthermore, it tempts you with additional pop-ups that are related to other websites you’ve visited.

If you see advertisements on your desktop or within your programs, you have adware. Aside from the annoying pop-ups, it can cause your computer to run slow. Furthermore, it can affect your Internet connections, intensify the instability of your PC, and change your default search engine and/or homepage.

Some of the more commonly known adware programs are “ Toolbar,” “Gator,” “WeatherBug,” and “Yahoo! Messenger.” Like other “virtual foes,” there are many programs designed to detect and remove it. Some also block it from being installed.

There are effective, inexpensive programs that remove adware. They include Bitdefender, BullGuard, Trend, and Norton, ranging in price from $19.97 to $49.99. There are also free ones like Spybot Search and Destroy, Lavasoft Adaware, and Spyware Doctor.

It’s comforting to know each new category of malware also brings new discoveries to combat it. The trick is staying informed about what’s out there and how to fix it.

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