Unwanted software can cause unwelcome problems

Does your internet browser ever display ads that just seem wrong — for example, an inappropriate ad on a kid’s website, an ad that blocks content on the page, or an ad on a government site? It might look something like this:

A scammy diet ad injected into a website for kids

Unwanted software could be to blame. Free downloads sometimes come with hidden software that can:

  • cause your computer to slow down or crash
  • modify your security settings, greatly increasing your risk of viruses
  • inject scammy and inappropriate ads into your browser
  • make it difficult to remove the software

If your computer has symptoms like these, take steps to get rid of the malware. Check to see if your browser or security software has tools to delete it and restore your settings. If that doesn’t work, you might want to get help from a professional.

Better yet, take these steps to avoid unwanted software in the first place:

  • Get well-known software directly from the source. Sites that offer lots of different browsers, PDF readers, and other popular software for free are more likely to include malware.
  • Read each screen when installing new software. If you don’t recognize a program, or are prompted to install additional “bundled” software, decline the additional program or exit the installation process.
  • Don’t click on popups or banner ads about your computer’s performance. Scammers insert unwanted software into banner ads that look legitimate, especially ads about your computer’s health.

Computers that don’t use adequate security software are more likely to be targeted by malware, so set your security software to update automatically. For more tips, watch this video and check out our article about malware:

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.