What is the "Apple Security Center" scam?
While inspecting dubious websites, our research team discovered the "Apple Security Center" tech support scam that targets Apple device users. Schemes of this kind trick victims into calling fake support lines by making claims about nonexistent system infections.
"Apple Security Center" scam overview
When we investigated a webpage running the "Apple Security Center" scam, it presented us with multiple pop-up windows. These pop-ups consisted of bogus system scan and its results, as well as various threat reports. The topmost pop-up proclaimed that the device is infected with "Trojan Spyware" and access to it has been restricted due to security reasons. To address this issue, the scam urged users to call the provided helpline.
In technical support scams, victims are asked to allow the cyber criminals (claiming to be "expert technicians", "support for [company/product name]", etc.) to remotely access the compromised device. The scam can vary once access is established.
The scammers can remove genuine security tools, install fake anti-viruses, or even infect the device with malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, etc.). Cyber criminals often choose to infiltrate Remote Access Trojans (RATs) into systems in order to stealthily re-access victims' devices and extract sensitive data or perform other malicious actives.
Tech support scammers can also trick victims into disclosing personally identifiable or finance-related information (e.g., ID card details, passport scans, bank account log-in credentials, credit card numbers, etc.). The data can be obtained directly from victims over the phone, scammers claiming it cannot be seen as it is typed, through phishing sites/files or malware.
Furthermore, the "services" from cyber criminals (e.g., fake malware removal, security tools or subscriptions, etc.) typically cost exorbitant sums. To minimize the chances of victims returning their funds or the scammers being caught, the payments are made using difficult/impossible to trace methods (e.g., cryptocurrencies, gift cards, pre-paid vouchers, cash hidden in innocuous package contents, etc.).
What is more, if victims are successfully scammed - they are often targeted repeatedly. To summarize, by trusting scams like "Apple Security Center" - users can experience system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.
Should it be impossible to close a scam page, use the Activity Monitor to end the browser's process. However, do not restore the previous browsing session when you open the browser again - since restoring it will reopen the deceptive webpage.
If you've already disclosed sensitive data to scammers, change the passwords of all potentially exposed accounts, inform their official support and the corresponding authorities.
And if you've allowed cyber criminals to remotely access your device, disconnect it from the Internet. Afterwards, uninstall the remote access software (e.g., AnyDesk, TeamViewer, etc.) since the scammers may not need your permission to re-access the device. Lastly, perform a complete system scan with an anti-virus and remove all detected threats.
|Name||Apple Security Center pop-up|
|Threat Type||Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud|
|Fake Claim||Malware has been detected on users' Apple devices.|
|Tech Support Scammer Phone Number||+1-833-685-3818|
|Detection Names (ondigitalocean[.]app)||Combo Cleaner (Malware), CRDF (Malicious), CyRadar (Malicious), ESET (Malware), Kaspersky (Phishing), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)|
|Serving IP Address (ondigitalocean[.]app)||188.8.131.52|
|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 (Mac)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your Mac with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
Technical support scam examples
The Internet is rife with various scams that use different models and disguises. Due to how widespread deceptive and malicious content is, we highly recommend exercising caution when browsing.
How did I open a scam website?
Scam websites are often accessed via others that use rogue advertising networks; they can either force-opened upon entry or when hosted content is clicked (e.g., buttons, links, ads, etc.). Misspelling the domain of a site (URL) can also result in a redirect (or a redirection chain leading) to a deceptive site.
Spam browser notifications and intrusive advertisements promote online scams as well. The same is true of the ads displayed by adware. Additionally, this software may be capable of force-opening deceptive sites.
How to avoid visiting scam websites?
Deceptive websites are primarily entered via redirects caused by pages using rogue advertising networks, mistyped URLs, spam browser notifications, intrusive ads, or installed adware.
Therefore, we advise against visiting/using sites that offer pirated programs/media or other questionable services (e.g., illegal streaming/downloading, Torrenting, etc.) - as they are usually monetized through rogue advertising networks. Pay attention to URLs and be careful when entering them.
To avoid receiving undesirable browser notifications, do not permit dubious webpages to display them (i.e., do not click "Allow", "Allow Notifications", etc.). Instead, ignore or deny notification delivery (i.e., select "Block", "Block Notifications", etc.).
Another recommendation is to be vigilant when browsing since fraudulent and malicious material usually appears legitimate.
We also advise downloading from official/verified sources and being cautious when installing - to prevent harmful software from infiltrating the device. If your computer is already infected, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for macOS to automatically eliminate all threats.
Text presented in "Apple Security Center" scam pop-up:
Apple Security Center
Threat Detected: Trojan Spyware
Access to this PC has been blocked for security reasons.
Contact Apple Support: +1-833-685-3818 (Toll Free)
The appearance of "Apple Security Center" pop-up scam (GIF):
Instant automatic Mac malware removal:
Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of Mac malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
- What is Apple Security Center pop-up?
- How to identify a pop-up scam?
- How do pop-up scams work?
- How to remove fake pop-ups?
- How to prevent fake pop-ups?
- What to do if you fell for a pop-up scam?
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:
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 macOS.
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 macOS) - 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a pop-up scam?
Pop-up scams are deceptive messages intended to trick users into performing specific actions, e.g., calling fake support lines, allowing cyber criminals to remotely access a device, disclosing private data, making monetary transactions, downloading/installing and/or purchasing software, etc.
What is the purpose of a pop-up scam?
Pop-up scams are designed to generate revenue. Cyber criminals can profit by obtaining funds through deception, abusing or selling sensitive data, promoting software, spreading malware, and so on.
Why do I encounter fake pop-ups?
Pop-up scams are run on various deceptive sites. Most enter such webpages via redirects caused by misspelled URLs, pages using rogue advertising networks, spam browser notifications, intrusive ads, or installed adware.
I cannot exit a scam page, how do I close it?
Use the Activity Monitor to end the browser's process. When opening the browser again, do not restore the previous browsing session since doing so will reopen the scam page.
I have allowed cyber criminals to remotely access my computer, what should I do?
Firstly, disconnect it from the Internet. Secondly, remove the remote access software the cyber criminals used (e.g., AnyDesk, TeamViewer, etc.). Lastly, use an anti-virus to run a full system scan and remove any threats present.
I have provided my personal information when tricked by a pop-up scam, what should I do?
If you've provided account log-in credentials - change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts and inform their official support. And if you have disclosed other private data (e.g., ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) - contact the corresponding authorities.
Will Combo Cleaner protect me from pop-up scams and the malware they proliferate?
Combo Cleaner can scan visited websites and detect deceptive and malicious ones. It can also restrict all further access to such webpages. Additionally, Combo Cleaner is capable of scanning systems and eliminating most of the known malware infections. It must be stressed that since high-end malicious software tends to hide deep within systems - running a full system scan is paramount.