Avoid being scammed by the "System Warning Alert" scheme

Also Known As: System Warning Alert tech support scam
Damage level: Medium

What is the "System Warning Alert" scam?

"System Warning Alert" is a technical support scam claiming that users' devices have been infected with spyware and other viruses. This scheme urges people to immediately contact 'tech support' by calling a supposedly toll-free telephone number. Note that no web page can detect threats or issues present within a system - any that much such claims are scams.

Sites running "System Warning Alert" and similar schemes are typically accessed via redirects caused by intrusive advertisements or Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) already infiltrated into the system.

System Warning Alert scam

When a website promoting the "System Warning Alert" scam is entered, the web page displays several pop-up windows. The top-most pop-up states that the site is requesting users to provide their username and password, due to suspicious activity detected on their IP addresses - allegedly caused by a dangerous system infection.

It also urges users to call a free technical support number. The text presented in the window overlaid by the previously described pop-up is identical to that stated in the background page, however, the background page also contains a fake anti-virus report in the right corner.

The deceptive message in both the pop-up and background claims that it is a "System Warning Alert". The detected issue is specified as "ERROR # 0xC004FC03" and users are instructed not to ignore this critical alert and call the provided number immediately.

The scam proclaims that should this web page be closed - access to the device will be disabled in order to prevent further damage to the user's network. The "alert" is displayed since the computer is notifying that it has been infected with pornographic spyware and other viruses.

These nonexistent threats are allegedly already in the process of exfiltrating information, as listed: Facebook and email account log-in credentials, credit card details, photographs and documents stored in the device. The scheme again urges users to call the telephone number in order to contact "expert engineers", who will supposedly walk them through the removal process.

This call must be made within five minutes to avoid data loss and having access to the computer disabled. Note that all information provided by "System Warning Alert" is false. Scammers disguise expensive telephone numbers as technical support to trick users into listening to lengthy technobabble while they unknowingly rack up significant phone bills.

Additionally, the criminals might attempt to convince people into allowing them access to their systems, which can result in real malware infections and other serious problems. Scammers might also request payment for services rendered and/or try to extract personal information (e.g. names, addresses, emails, banking account and/or credit card details, etc.).

Therefore, trusting the "System Warning Alert" scam can lead to financial losses, serious privacy issues and identity theft. You are expressly advised not to trust any claims made by this, or similar, scams and to leave these web pages without delay. In some cases, scam websites can prevent users from closing them.

In these cases, terminate the browser process using Task Manager, however, upon reopening the browser, do not restore the previous browsing session, as doing so will reopen the deceptive page.

PUAs can force-open legitimate pages, not just deceptive/scam sites. They can cause unwanted redirects to rogue/untrustworthy, sale-based, compromised and malicious pages, however, these apps also have additional capabilities. Adware-type PUAs can deliver intrusive ad campaigns.

The resultant ads redirect to similarly harmful web pages and can even execute scripts to stealthily download/install unwanted software. Other types of PUAs called browser hijackers can modify browsers to promote fake search engines.

These rogue web searchers are typically unable to generate unique results, and so they redirect to Google, Yahoo, Bing and other legitimate search engines. Most PUAs can track data. They can monitor users' browsing habits (browsing and search engine histories) and collect personal information (IP addresses, geolocations and other details).

This sensitive data is often shared with third parties, seeking to misuse it for profit. To summarize, presence of unwanted applications on systems can endanger device and user safety. You are advised to eliminate all suspect applications and browser extensions/plug-ins immediately upon detection.

Threat Summary:
Name System Warning Alert tech support scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud.
Fake Claim Scam claims users' devices are infected with spyware and other viruses.
Tech Support Scammer Phone Number +1-888-696-4599
Related Domains professionalizing[.]space/r/99
Symptoms Fake error messages, fake system warnings, pop-up errors, hoax computer scan.
Distribution methods Compromised websites, rogue online pop-up ads, potentially unwanted applications.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft, possible malware infections.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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"Attention 22 threats found", "WARNING! 36 infections found!!!", and "Activation Security Warning" are some examples of other technical support scams. The internet is rife with various schemes that employ different models to trick users into performing specific actions.

Popular scam models include (but are not limited to) warnings about system infections, alerts that an essential piece of software is outdated, fake prize giveaways, amazing offers and deals. Regardless of what these schemes claim, request or demand, their purpose is identical: to generate revenue to the scammers/cyber criminals behind them.

How did potentially unwanted applications install on my computer?

PUAs are proliferated though the download/install set-ups of other programs. This deceptive marketing method of pre-packing regular software with unwanted or malicious additions is called "bundling". Rushing download/installation processes (e.g. ignoring terms, skipping steps, etc.) increases the risk of inadvertently allowing bundled content onto the device.

Note that some PUAs have "official" download web pages. Once clicked, intrusive ads can execute scripts to download/install PUAs, without users' permission.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications

You are advised to research all software prior to download/installation. All downloads should be performed from official and verified sources. Unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders are untrusted, since they can offer deceptive and/or bundled content.

When downloading/installing, read the terms, study all available options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings and opt-out of additional apps, tools, features and so on. Exercise caution when browsing. Intrusive advertisements often seem normal and harmless, however, they can redirect to dubious pages (e.g. gambling, pornography, adult-dating, etc.).

If you encounter these ads/redirects, check the system and immediately remove all dubious applications and browser extensions/plug-ins. 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 "System Warning Alert" scam pop-up window and background page:

** System Warning Alert **
ERROR # 0xC004FC03


Please call us immediately at +1-888-696-4599
Do not ignore this critical alert..
If you close this page, your computer access will be  disabled to prevent further damage to our network. Your computer has alerted us that it has been infected with a pornographic spyware and  virus.


The following information is being stolen:
1.Facebook Logins
2.Credit Card Details
3.Email  Account Logins
4.Photos  and documents stored on this computer


You must contact us immediately so that our expert engineers can walk you through the removal process over the phone to protect your identity. Please call us within the next 5 minutes to prevent your computer from being disabled or from any information loss.


System Toll Free: +1-888-696-4599

Screenshot of the background page:

System Warning Alert scam background page

The appearance of "System Warning Alert" pop-up scam (GIF):

Appearance of System Warning Alert scam

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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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