Virus helps scammers get credit card data

A particularly nasty and persistent virus is making its way around the Windows computing world these days.



A particularly nasty and persistent virus is making its way around the Windows computing world these days.

So many variants are popping up that it’s hard to keep track, but the virus often goes by the names MS Removal Tool or AntiVirus 2011 or System Tool 2011.

You’ll know you have it when your desktop wallpaper changes and an official-looking popup says the only possible way to clean your computer is to enter your credit card number. Never do that!

You’re blocked from executing anything else, including trying to run your real anti-virus program.

This virus program renders your entire computer useless until you can get it removed. And some of its many variants are becoming immune to existing removal tools; it appears to be spreading faster than some of the countermeasures.

The program’s goal is to collect your credit card info and steal money. It’s sophisticated enough to have duped lots of people into typing in their account numbers and sending them along to heaven knows where.

We’ll see fewer of these malicious programs if:

l Consumers stop enabling them by providing account information.

l Consumers keep good anti-virus programs on their computers. You’d be surprised by the number of unprotected PCs I see in my computer business. Anti-virus software is free. Search for “Microsoft Security Essentials” and install it if you have a Windows PC.

If your computer gets this infection, it can be truly maddening to remove, depending on the variety.

YouTube videos outline some removal methods you can try if you’re relatively computer savvy. The best method is to use Google to find an activation code for the version you have (people are sharing the codes all over the place) and then actually activate the software as if you were a sucker and bought it. That will give you back control of your computer and allow you to run your anti-virus software.

Most of all, you should install and run Malware Bytes, a malware removal program, in “full scan” mode. If that does not find and remove your infection, you may have the newest variation — and you may need to run other tools or call in a professional to manually track down and remove the virus file.

So beware: Try to stay with reputable web locations and keep your virus software updated and never, ever enter your credit card information into a web page or a piece of software that you have not intentionally purchased.

James Derk owns CyberDads, a computer services firm in Evansville, Ind. Contact him at