Science & Technology



Tech Q&A: How to fix a tech support scam that locks your browser

Steve Alexander, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Science & Technology News

Q: For the past two weeks I've been getting a full-screen "internet security alert" on my Windows PC. It's red with a white box in the middle displaying the error code 055BCCAC9FEC. A voice says that if I do anything my data will be compromised and that I should call a "Microsoft support" phone number. I have to shut down my PC to eliminate the warning. The Malwarebytes security program hasn't found any viruses. What can I do?

Duane Crosland, Otsego, Minn.

A: This is an unpleasant scam. Even if you are not fooled, these attacks often cause harm by locking your browser. You can get rid of the malware yourself, but it requires several steps.

The scam works this way: Malicious software is inadvertently downloaded to your PC and generates a warning that takes over your browser. If you call the phony help number, they will charge you a few hundred dollars to remotely take control of your PC and "fix" the problem. In some cases, they'll also steal your credit card information (see

Here's the fix: Close your browser by simultaneously pressing the Ctrl, Alt and Del keys, then on the next menu clicking Task Manager. Look through Task Manager's list of "processes" that are running on your PC until you find your browser. Left click the browser in the list to highlight it, then click the "end task" button on the screen.

Then restart your browser without letting it return to the same page it was on (quickly type in a different Web address or click a bookmark).

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Now download new versions of the free Malwarebytes (, free Malwarebytes AdwCleaner ( and the 30-day free trial version of HitmanPro ( Run these programs in this order: AdwCleaner, Malwarebytes and HitmanPro. (For detailed directions, see

If the problem isn't resolved, go to the fourth step on that website, which explains how to restore your Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer browser to the original settings.

Q: I use the Outlook 2010 e-mail program. When I forward e-mailed photos or paste photos into an e-mail message, my recipients who use Apple devices receive the photos as win.dat files that they can't open. What can I do to fix this?

Philip Neal, Colorado Springs, Colo.


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