Computer VirusComputers are a wonderful resource and tool for seniors.  They help you stay in contact with friends and family hundreds or thousands of miles away.  They help you stay up to date with news around the world and deliver your local or home town newspaper with just a click.  But, sometimes this wonderful computer that does so much can be a source of frustration and even fear.  And there are people out there that want to use that fear to take advantage of people who don’t know a lot about computers.  Here are some dos and don’ts to help YOU avoid being scammed.

Here is a common scenario.  You are browsing the internet looking for a recipe or shopping for a new fishing lure.  You scan the list that comes up, see one that looks good, so you click on the link to get it.  Suddenly, you see a message on your screen that says you have a virus on your computer. This message may even be combined with a sound, possibly a voice coming through your speakers stating that your computer is infected.  It can be very jarring and very scary.  And it’s meant to be.

This unexpected intrusion is called Scareware, and it’s meant to scare you.  It’s meant to make you feel confused and anxious and not knowing what to do next.  Sometimes the message on the screen will make an outrageous claim such as saying that you have done something illegal, and that you must contact them right away or they’ll arrest you.  Sometimes the message on the screen claims to be from Microsoft with instructions on what to do to fix it.  And while there are many variations of this scam, there are some general steps that you should take when this happens, and some you definitely should not.


                1.  Don’t call any number that your computer shows on the screen.  That number will take you to the criminals that did this.  They may pretend to be Microsoft or your Anti-Virus company.  They are NOT!  Calling them is exactly what they want you to do.  Don’t.

                2. Don’t click on anything.  You may not be infected yet, but a click may set this in motion.  What you see on the screen might just be a clever ruse—the trick to get you to click on something that will infect your computer or make things much worse.

                3. Don’t accept any offers to let anyone remote control your computer.  Remember, these are criminals.  They can be very convincing, claiming to be trying to help you.  If you let them remote control your computer, they are then able to get to any private information that is on it; or install a program that will send them your information later.


                1.  Take a deep breath!  You won’t think as clearly when you’re upset and anxious.  Try to remain calm.

                2.  Turn off your computer, even if it is warning you not to!  If you have a laptop, just close the screen.  If you have a desktop, press and hold the power button until the computer shuts down. Or, just unplug the power cord from the back of the computer or from the wall.

                3. Call someone you know and trust!  If you know someone that fixes computers, call them.  If you don’t have such a person in your life, call a friend or family member you trust to help you find someone to help you.  Call a friend or relative and have them look up the phone number to your local computer tech or computer store.  Don’t try to look up a phone number using your computer.  At this point, a number you get from your computer browser might be one that will connect you to the criminals trying to scam you.  Until you know that your computer is cleaned up, don’t call any number that comes from your computer.

Mark Arnold is the owner of Mark Arnold Computer Tech, in Phoenix Az.