Most often when someone informs me that they have a computer infected with a virus, it turns out to be a scam site that they have landed on. In the instances where they are not actually on a scam site, I typically find that they are viewing an advertisement.
These ads are common on news sites, blogs, and free email sites such as Yahoo, MSN, or AOL. The thing that most people forget is there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you aren’t buying the product, you are the product. If you are the product, either your privacy is being sold, or you are being sold.
This is one reason why I support paying for email service when free email is abundantly available.
Free sites aren’t free to operate. Somebody is paying to run the servers and paying for the traffic. Just like the roads you drive on, it costs money to get to websites. Somebody has to pay for all the cables and equipment that makes up the internet.
How do sites exist when they don’t charge for their services? A common method is to sell advertising space. Advertisers pay the person running the website to display their ads in hopes of convincing a percentage of that site’s visitors of clicking on their ad and taking a given action.
Scammers have come to realize it is much easier to convince people to willingly open their wallets. In a day when most people are afraid of being taken advantage of and have their walls up, many are willing to believe that just because they see something on their computer that claims they are being taken advantage of, it must be telling the truth.
This is no different from a pickpocket telling you that a random passerby was trying to lift your wallet, all the while, they are busy lifting your wallet while you are watching the person they pointed out.
The best thing you can do is install an ad blocker to prevent those lying ads from showing up. Blocking ads will also help reduce tracking where you go online.
There are a number of ad blocking options out there – both free and paid. Here are a couple of the ad blockers we have used:
The downside to ad blockers is because it takes away revenue from websites, many sites – especially news sites, have put up “pay walls” that allow you to see the first part of an article, but to read the rest of it, you will need to either disable your ad blocker or pay a subscription. Some sites will let you view one or two free articles on their site before you have to subscribe. One way around these sites is to clear your cookies or open a private browsing window that prevents cookies so they can’t tell how many sites you have viewed.