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[November 2018]

Beware of fake security warning pop-ups when using the Internet

Local consumer affairs centers and the like across Japan received many inquiries about fake security warning pop-ups. A warning message like "Your computer is infected with virus" was suddenly shown when using the Internet and users entered into a contract for security software or PC support, getting anxious. Later they suspected that they had been cheated by a fraudulent message and the contract was unnecessary for them.

Diagram: Number of inquiries about security software purchase triggered by warning pop-up or beep sound received through PIO-NET1
Graph of transition in the annual number of inquiries from FY2013 through September 30, 2018, followed by description in text
Note:*1 The pink area of the bar shows 1,601 inquiries received from April 1, 2017 through September 30, 2017, for comparison with the same period in FY2018.
Note:*2 The data in FY2018 shows inquiries from April 1, 2018 through September 30, 2018.

The number of inquiries was 946 in FY2013, 875 in FY2014, 988 in FY2015, 5,221 in FY2016, 3,093 in FY2017, and 2,135 in FY2018 through September 30, 2018 (The number in the same period in FY2017 was 1,601).

  1. 1 PIO-NET is a database that collects information on inquiries concerning consumer affairs by linking NCAC with local consumer affairs centers and similar organizations across Japan via an online network.

Sampling of inquiries and complaints

[Case1] Pop-up message "Infected with virus" suddenly appeared on the screen. I called a phone number shown and entered into a PC support contract.
When using the Internet on my computer, a warning pop-up message "Your computer is infected with virus" suddenly appeared on the screen. The message was accompanied with a logo seemingly indicating a big security software company, so I called a phone number shown. The person on the phone told me to install remote control software. I was further told to enter my credit card data, so I felt uneasy and hesitant. The person in charge urged me to enter the data, saying "It's dangerous if you don't take immediate action." Then I entered it. After an hour of operation, I was charged 100,000 yen for a 3-year support contract.
A few hours later, I received a phone call to encourage me to install 60,000 yen security software to protect from cyber threat, seemingly from the same company. I disclosed my credit card information to the person on the phone. When I calmed down later, I recalled that security software had been already installed on my computer and I received no report of threat. I think I was cheated. I want to cancel the contracts.
(received in July 2018, man in his 30s)
In addition,
Some consumers reported that they had entered into a support contract triggered by a sudden beep sound from the computer, and they were unable to cancel the contract.

Problems highlighted from sampling of inquiries and complaints

  1. Warning pop-ups worry consumers and lead them to enter into a contract for security software, etc.
  2. The cancellation process does not go smoothly.

Advice for consumers

  1. Even if a warning pop-up is shown on the screen, do not believe it. Never hurry to contact or enter into a contract.
  2. If you feel uneasy or get in trouble, consult your local consumer affairs center.