Avoid getting scammed by the "System Warning Alert" scheme

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

"System Warning Alert" scam redirect removal instructions

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 users to immediately contact tech support by calling a supposedly toll-free telephone number. It must be noted that no webpage can actually detect threats/issues present within a system, hence 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 by PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications), already infiltrated into the system.

System Warning Alert scam

When a website promoting the "System Warning Alert" scam is entered, the webpage 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 address - 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 what is stated in the background page. However, the background page also contains a fake anti-virus report in its right corner. The deceptive message in both pop-up and background claims that it is a "System Warning Alert". The detected issue is specified as "ERROR # 0xC004FC03", users are instructed not to ignore this critical alert and call the provided number immediately. The scam proclaims that should this webpage be closed - access to the device will be disabled, in order to prevent further damage to the users' network. The "alert" is displayed due to the computer 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 pushes users to call the telephone number, in order to contact "expert engineers", who will 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. It must be emphasized that all of the information provided by "System Warning Alert" is false. Scammers disguised expensive numbers as technical supports, as to trick users into listening to lengthy technobabble - while they unknowingly rack up significant phone bills. Additionally, the criminals may attempt to convince users into allowing them access to their systems, which can result in real malware infections and other serious problems. Scammers may 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. It is expressly advised not to trust any claims made by this or similar scams, and to leave such webpages without delay. In some cases, scam websites can prevent users from closing them - then, it is recommended to terminate the browser's process using the Task Manager. However, upon reopening the browser again - the previous browsing session must not be restored, as doing so will reopen the deceptive page.

PUAs can force-open various sites, not just deceptive/scam ones. They can cause undesirable redirects to rogue/untrustworthy, sale-based, compromised and malicious pages. However, these apps can have other/additional abilities. Adware-type PUAs can deliver intrusive ad campaigns. Said adverts redirect to similarly harmful webpages and can even execute scripts to stealthily download/install unwanted software. Other types of PUAs called browser hijackers can modify browsers in order to promote fake search engines. These illegitimate web searchers are typically unable to generate search results, so they redirect to Google, Yahoo, Bing and other legitimate search engines. Most PUAs can also 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. It is highly recommended 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!!!", "Activation Security Warning" are a few 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, ludicrous offers and deals. Regardless of what these schemes claim, request or demand - their end-goal is the same, to generate revenue to the scammers / cyber criminals behind them.

How did potentially unwanted applications install on my computer?

PUAs are proliferated though download/install setups of other programs. This false marketing method of pre-packing regular software with unwanted or malicious additions - is called "bundling". Rushed download/installation processes (e.g. ignored terms, skipped steps, etc.) - increase the risk of inadvertently allowing bundled content onto the device. Select PUAs have "official" download webpages. Once clicked on, intrusive ads can execute scripts to download/install PUAs, without user permission.

How to avoid installation of potentially unwanted applications?

It is recommended to research software prior to download/installation. All downloads should be done from official and verified sources. Unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders - are considered to be untrustworthy, due to often offering deceptive and/or bundled content. When downloading/installing, it is advised to read terms, study all available options, use the "Custom/Advanced" settings and opt-out from additional apps, tools, features and so on. It is just as important to exercise caution when browsing. Intrusive advertisements tend to appear ordinary and harmless, however they redirect to various questionable pages (e.g. gambling, pornography, adult-dating, etc.). In case of encounters with such adverts/redirects, users must check the system and immediately remove all dubious applications and/or browser extensions/plug-ins from it. If your computer is already infected with PUAs, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate them.

Text presented in "System Warning Alert" scam's 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

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Malwarebytes is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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Quick menu:

Removal of potentially unwanted applications:

Windows 7 users:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 7

Click Start (Windows Logo at the bottom left corner of your desktop), choose Control Panel. Locate Programs and click Uninstall a program.

Windows XP users:

Accessing Add or Remove Programs in Windows XP

Click Start, choose Settings and click Control Panel. Locate and click Add or Remove Programs.

Windows 10 and Windows 8 users:

Accessing Programs and Features (uninstall) in Windows 8

Right-click in the lower left corner of the screen, in the Quick Access Menu select Control Panel. In the opened window choose Programs and Features.

Mac OSX users:

Uninstall app in OSX (Mac)

Click Finder, in the opened screen select Applications. Drag the app from the Applications folder to the Trash (located in your Dock), then right click the Trash icon and select Empty Trash.

PUAs uninstall via Control Panel

In the uninstall programs window, look for any suspicious/recently-installed applications, select these entries and click "Uninstall" or "Remove".

After uninstalling the potentially unwanted application, scan your computer for any remaining unwanted components or possible malware infections. To scan your computer, use recommended malware removal software.

Remove rogue extensions from Internet browsers:

Video showing how to remove potentially unwanted browser add-ons:

Internet Explorer logoRemove malicious add-ons from Internet Explorer:

Removing rogue extensions from Internet Explorer step 1

Click the "gear" icon Internet Explorer options icon (at the top right corner of Internet Explorer), select "Manage Add-ons". Look for any recently-installed suspicious browser extensions, select these entries and click "Remove".

Removing rogue extensions from Internet Explorer step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the system warning alert tech support scam, reset your Internet Explorer settings to default.

Windows XP users: Click Start, click Run, in the opened window type inetcpl.cpl In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows XP

Windows Vista and Windows 7 users: Click the Windows logo, in the start search box type inetcpl.cpl and click enter. In the opened window click the Advanced tab, then click Reset.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 7

Windows 8 users: Open Internet Explorer and click the gear icon. Select Internet Options.

Reseting Internet Explorer settings to default in Windows 8 - accessing

In the opened window, select the Advanced tab.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - Internet options advanced tab

Click the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - click the Reset button in the Internet options advanced tab

Confirm that you wish to reset Internet Explorer settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Resetting Internet Explorer settings to default on Windows 8 - confirm settings reset to default by clicking the reset button

Google Chrome logoRemove malicious extensions from Google Chrome:

Removing rogue extensions from Google Chrome step 1

Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome), select "More tools" and click "Extensions". Locate all recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons and remove them.

Removing rogue extensions from Google Chrome step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the system warning alert tech support scam, reset your Google Chrome browser settings. Click the Chrome menu icon Google Chrome menu icon (at the top right corner of Google Chrome) and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the screen. Click the Advanced… link.

Google Chrome settings reset step 1

After scrolling to the bottom of the screen, click the Reset (Restore settings to their original defaults) button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 2

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Google Chrome settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Google Chrome settings reset step 3

Mozilla Firefox logoRemove malicious plugins from Mozilla Firefox:

Removing rogue extensions from Mozilla Firefox step 1

Click the Firefox menu firefox menu icon (at the top right corner of the main window), select "Add-ons". Click on "Extensions", in the opened window remove all recently-installed suspicious browser plug-ins.

Removing rogue extensions from Mozilla Firefox step 2

Optional method:

Computer users who have problems with system warning alert tech support scam removal can reset their Mozilla Firefox settings.

Open Mozilla Firefox, at the top right corner of the main window, click the Firefox menu, firefox menu icon in the opened menu, click Help.

Accessing settings (Reset Firefox to default settings step 1)

Select Troubleshooting Information.

Accessing Troubleshooting Information (Reset Firefox to default settings step 2)

In the opened window, click the Refresh Firefox button.

Clicking on Refresh Firefox button (Reset Firefox to default settings step 3)

In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Mozilla Firefox settings to default by clicking the Refresh Firefox button.

Confirm your want to reset Firefox settings to default (Reset Firefox to default settings step 4)

safari browser logoRemove malicious extensions from Safari:

removing adware from safari step 1 - accessing preferences

Make sure your Safari browser is active, click Safari menu, and select Preferences....

removing adware from safari step 2 - removing extensions

In the opened window click Extensions, locate any recently installed suspicious extension, select it and click Uninstall.

Optional method:

Make sure your Safari browser is active and click on Safari menu. From the drop down menu select Clear History and Website Data...

resetting safari step 1

In the opened window select all history and click the Clear History button.

resetting safari step 2

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) logoRemove malicious extensions from Microsoft Edge:

Removing adware from Microsoft Edge step 1

Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) menu icon (at the upper-right corner of Microsoft Edge), select "Extensions". Locate all recently-installed suspicious browser add-ons and click "Remove" below their names.

Removing adware from Microsoft Edge step 2

Optional method:

If you continue to have problems with removal of the system warning alert tech support scam, reset your Microsoft Edge browser settings. Click the Edge menu icon Microsoft Edge (chromium) menu icon (at the top right corner of Microsoft Edge) and select Settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 1

In the opened settings menu select Reset settings.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 2

Select Restore settings to their default values. In the opened window, confirm that you wish to reset Microsoft Edge settings to default by clicking the Reset button.

Microsoft Edge (Chromium) reset step 3

  • If this did not help, follow these alternative instructions explaining how to reset the Microsoft Edge browser.

Summary:

declining installation of adware while downloading free software sampleCommonly, adware or potentially unwanted applications infiltrate Internet browsers through free software downloads. Note that the safest source for downloading free software is via developers' websites only. To avoid installation of adware, be very attentive when downloading and installing free software. When installing previously-downloaded free programs, choose the custom or advanced installation options – this step will reveal any potentially unwanted applications listed for installation together with your chosen free program.

Removal assistance:
If you are experiencing problems while trying to remove system warning alert tech support scam from your computer, please ask for assistance in our malware support forum.

Post a comment:
If you have additional information on system warning alert tech support scam or it's removal please share your knowledge in the comments section below.

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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Removal Instructions in other languages
Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
System Warning Alert tech support scam QR code
A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a machine-readable code which stores URLs and other information. This code can be read using a camera on a smartphone or a tablet. Scan this QR code to have an easy access removal guide of System Warning Alert tech support scam on your mobile device.
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