(CBS Local) — Pop-up ads were a plague to internet users for years before the invention of pop-up blocking technology. Now, it seems the old menace has come back with a new twist as iPhone and Android users are reportedly being bombarded by phony messages telling them they’ve won a prize.
The new wave of “congratulations” pop-up ads promise prizes like free Amazon gift cards, iPhones, or cash in exchange for clicking on the message or submitting personal information. According to security experts, these ads aren’t just a fraud, they’re infecting your computers or mobile devices with malware.
Researchers from cybersecurity firm Symantec say the scammers look for users to take the bait so victims will enter personal information that is transmitted back to the criminals. “Scammers often craft fake testimonials and endorsements supposedly by other users that look like these were posted on the said platforms,” Symantec officials wrote in a blog post.
Another reported side effect of the “you won” pop-ups has seen Facebook users unintentionally giving scammers access to their friends list. Once a victim’s Facebook is infected, scammers can allegedly send your friends more fake messages through your account.
“As we do more and more of our life on our phones the scammers are migrating with us,” security expert Steven J. J. Weisman said, via azfamily.com. “It’s like going to a county fair and playing ‘Whack a Mole.’ As soon as you bang one another one comes up.”
According to a report by security company Confiant, malicious pop-ups are making a comeback through sophisticated fraud networks which use fake ad agencies to infiltrate legitimate websites and spread “malvertising.” “Mobile ads are booming in today’s market. Mobile ads done properly are a good value to consumers,” Bryan Shetsky, CEO of Lamark Media Group added.
Tech experts say there are some ways to defend against the fake prizes messages, besides simply not clicking on them. Internet security companies have already identified the brand of malware attacking Android device. The Android.Fakeyouwon virus has been added to the list of known threats anti-malware programs now look for.
For iOS users, Apple recommends always installing the latest updates and turning on the “Block Pop-ups” and “Fraudulent Website Warning” settings for Safari.