Q: I have a Lenova laptop with Windows 10. For several weeks now I have been getting full-screen pop-ups on my machine, complete with a woman’s voice, telling me that if I do not call the number listed in the pop-up all manner of terrible things will happen to my internet connection. The message claims to be from Microsoft — but of course I know well enough that it’s not. What’s strange is that this only appears when I’m accessing my Comcast email in my email program and not when I surf the web or view my Gmail account. Once this message appears, I can only shut down my system to get rid of it. I called Comcast for help but they could not do much. Any idea what I can do?
—Roseann Romans Stuart
A: This sounds like an infection known as Tech Support Spyware, which in itself is a type of “ransomware.” This is a malicious item that’s been designed to block access to the internet or part of your system (such as general Windows functionality, email, internet, etc.) until you pay it a specific sum of money. Often it takes on the persona of a larger entity, like Microsoft, as a means of adding validity to its claim, though as you’ve correctly pointed out it’s not really Microsoft behind this (they would never contact you in this manner — ever!) and paying the amount requested will do nothing more than provide the culprits with your credit card information. Scams like these can be sophisticated in setup, especially since the virus only seems to appear when you are working with your email program. Because of this, there’s a good chance the virus was transmitted to you via your email account, most likely as an attachment that you thought was safe to click on but really wasn’t.
Fixing this type of infection can be complicated, especially if the virus has been on your system for a few weeks and has had a chance to inflict some damage to the machine. Basic instructions for removing it can be found at this website: https://malwaretips.com/blogs/remove-tech-support-scam-popups/. But full repair and recovery cannot be guaranteed with these steps, since it’s impossible to know how much damage the virus has already caused to this point.
With that being said, if you feel the process listed at the website above is beyond your comfort level or know-how, or if the steps outlined below do not solve the problem, please take the computer to a local technician for additional help.
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