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Activate Your Windows Now POP-UP Scam

Also Known As: "Activate your Windows now" virus
Damage level: Medium

What is "Activate your Windows now"?

"Activate your Windows now" is just one of many fake messages displayed on various deceptive websites. In this case, it is a fake Windows Security alert message.

Generally, people do not visit these deceptive and untrustworthy websites intentionally - they are redirected to them by potentially unwanted applications (PUAs). Typically, PUAs deliver intrusive ads and record data. Most users install these unwanted apps inadvertently.

Activate your Windows now scam

According to scammers who designed the "Activate your Windows now" fake security alert (the fake message in the Windows Security pop-up window), the computer is blocked due to a 'system warning' state. Users are urged not to restart their computers or press any keys.

Scammers attempt to trick users into contacting "certified technicians" via the telephone number (+1-877-220-4850). They state that users must contact them to remove the "critical infection" - to resolve the problem that has supposedly affected the operating system.

Scammers behind the "Activate your Windows now" scam claim to be technicians (supposedly representatives of Microsoft), making the message seem like a legitimate security warning from Windows (they display a system information window). They also attempt to trick people into believing that their Windows Operating Systems are not activated.

Note that the pop-up window also contains "User name" and "Password" fields that must be completed. In this way, criminals attempt to acquire users' account credentials. Do not enter any details. Note that system warning information can be accessed only by the Windows Operating System, and not via any website.

These fake alerts are used by scammers to trick people into contacting them and paying for services (provided by "certified technicians") or purchasing software. Generally, scammers design these deceptive websites only to generate revenue by making users believe that there is a problem with their computers (that are apparently infected with viruses, and so on).

These fake messages should never be trusted. We recommend that you simply close the website that triggered the "Activate your Windows now" fake security warning. If it prevents you from closing it, use Task Manager and terminate the entire browser process or simply restart your computer. Do not return to this website or restore the previous session.

As mentioned in our introduction, potentially unwanted applications cause redirects to deceptive websites that display fake messages such as "Activate your Windows now". These unwanted apps also deliver intrusive ads and gather data. They trigger ads displayed using tools that enable placement of third party graphical content on any site.

Therefore, they conceal underlying content of any visited website. Do not click them, since they often redirect users to untrustworthy websites. Some might execute scripts that download/install other unwanted apps. Thus, clicking intrusive ads can lead to various system infections.

Furthermore, PUAs collect data relating to browsing activity such as IP addresses, search queries, geo-locations, URLs of visited websites, and personal/sensitive details. Developers share the data with third parties (potentially, cyber criminals) who misuse it to generate revenue. Thus, having these apps installed might lead to privacy/browsing safety issues or even identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name "Activate your Windows now" virus
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of one's computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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There are many examples of fake messages that are similar to "Activate your Windows now", such as This Computer Is Blocked, MS MALWARE ALERT, Your Computer Was Locked, and so on.

The main purpose of these deceptive websites is to trick people into contacting scammers who try to extort money from people by urging them to purchase software products or online technical services. All PUAs are similar - developers promote them as 'useful' and legitimate tools.

In this way, they trick people into downloading them. In fact, these apps provide none of the functionality promised. They are designed only to generate revenue for the developers and simply cause problems rather than giving any real value.

How did potentially unwanted applications install on my computer?

Some potentially unwanted applications have official websites, however, most users install them inadvertently by clicking untrustworthy, deceptive ads or when software developers use "bundling", a deceptive marketing method used by software developers to trick users into downloading/installing potentially unwanted applications together with other software.

Developers do not disclose information about the presence of unwanted apps in installation/download set-ups and hide them in "Custom"/"Advanced" options/settings. Furthermore, many users skip download/installation steps without checking settings, thus leading to PUA installations.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

Avoid downloading software from untrustworthy and unofficial sources, using third party software downloaders, and so on. Use direct links, and official and trustworthy websites. Never skip download/installation steps without checking the "Custom", "Advanced" and other similar settings or options.

Deselect additionally-included, unwanted software, and only then proceed to the next step or finish the process. Many untrustworthy intrusive ads redirect users to dubious and potentially malicious websites (gambling, pornography, adult dating, and so on).

If you encounter these advertisements (or redirects caused by them), check installed applications (extensions, add-ons, and plug-ins) on your browser and remove any unknown/unwanted entries immediately. Also check the list of installed programs on your computer (operating system).

If your computer is already infected with PUAs, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate them.

Text presented in "Activate your Windows now" pop-up:

Windows Security
Microsoft Edge

The server ****** is asking for your user name and password. The server reports that it is from Your computer is blocked state SYSTEM WARNING: DO NOT RESTART YOUR COMPUTER OR PRESS ANY KEY UNTIL SAFE SIDE INSTRUCTIONS. For Safety instructions call immediately: +1-877-220-4850 (Toll Free), a windows certified technician will guide you safeguard your system.You must not avoid this warning, as this is critical infection immediately:
+1-877-220-4850 (Toll Free)

[User name]
[Password]

[OK] [Cancel]

The appearance of "Activate your Windows now" pop-up (GIF):

appearance of activate your windows now scam in a pop-up

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Quick menu:

How to identify a pop-up scam?

Pop-up windows with various fake messages are a common type of lures cybercriminals use. They collect sensitive personal data, trick Internet users into calling fake tech support numbers, subscribe to useless online services, invest in shady cryptocurrency schemes, etc.

While in the majority of cases these pop-ups don't infect users' devices with malware, they can cause direct monetary loss or could result in identity theft.

Cybercriminals strive to create their rogue pop-up windows to look trustworthy, however, scams typically have the following characteristics:

  • Spelling mistakes and non-professional images - Closely inspect the information displayed in a pop-up. Spelling mistakes and unprofessional images could be a sign of a scam.
  • Sense of urgency - Countdown timer with a couple of minutes on it, asking you to enter your personal information or subscribe to some online service.
  • Statements that you won something - If you haven't participated in a lottery, online competition, etc., and you see a pop-up window stating that you won.
  • Computer or mobile device scan - A pop-up window that scans your device and informs of detected issues - is undoubtedly a scam; webpages cannot perform such actions.
  • Exclusivity - Pop-up windows stating that only you are given secret access to a financial scheme that can quickly make you rich.

Example of a pop-up scam:

Example of a pop-up scam

How do pop-up scams work?

Cybercriminals and deceptive marketers usually use various advertising networks, search engine poisoning techniques, and shady websites to generate traffic to their pop-ups. Users land on their online lures after clicking on fake download buttons, using a torrent website, or simply clicking on an Internet search engine result.

Based on users' location and device information, they are presented with a scam pop-up. Lures presented in such pop-ups range from get-rich-quick schemes to fake virus scans.

How to remove fake pop-ups?

In most cases, pop-up scams do not infect users' devices with malware. If you encountered a scam pop-up, simply closing it should be enough. In some cases scam, pop-ups may be hard to close; in such cases - close your Internet browser and restart it.

In extremely rare cases, you might need to reset your Internet browser. For this, use our instructions explaining how to reset Internet browser settings.

How to prevent fake pop-ups?

To prevent seeing pop-up scams, you should visit only reputable websites. Torrent, Crack, free online movie streaming, YouTube video download, and other websites of similar reputation commonly redirect Internet users to pop-up scams.

To minimize the risk of encountering pop-up scams, you should keep your Internet browsers up-to-date and use reputable anti-malware application. For this purpose, we recommend Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

What to do if you fell for a pop-up scam?

This depends on the type of scam that you fell for. Most commonly, pop-up scams try to trick users into sending money, giving away personal information, or giving access to one's device.

  • If you sent money to scammers: You should contact your financial institution and explain that you were scammed. If informed promptly, there's a chance to get your money back.
  • If you gave away your personal information: You should change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication in all online services that you use. Visit Federal Trade Commission to report identity theft and get personalized recovery steps.
  • If you let scammers connect to your device: You should scan your computer with reputable anti-malware (we recommend Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows) - cyber criminals could have planted trojans, keyloggers, and other malware, don't use your computer until removing possible threats.
  • Help other Internet users: report Internet scams to Federal Trade Commission.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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