Recently, Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland was alerted to a scam that could spell trouble for millions of smartphone users. The unnerving pop-up message is the latest attempt by hackers to gain access to valuable personal and financial data and/or extort ransom money. As a result, BBB is urging consumers to report any type of on-screen message that attempts to dupe them into believing their iPhone or other device is infected or damaged.
BBB says an Annapolis, Md. woman reported receiving a pop-up that told her if she didn’t download “Applock” for free on Google Play that her iPhone’s SIM card would be damaged and her contacts photos, data and applications would be corrupted.
|The pop-up was suspicious and instructions to download an Android app for an iPhone, raised yet another red flag. By downloading a scammer’s app, the user could have ultimately opened up her device to malware and spyware. Doing so could be costly and expose the victim to identity theft and financial fraud.
“The average person stores information on multiple accounts, credit card details, passwords and more on their mobile devices. If you get scared into downloading malware on your iPhone, you’ll likely be serving up your personal, banking and even location information to scammers on a silver platter. Just think about the ramifications if you manage your smart-home from your smartphone,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO, BBB serving Greater Maryland.
A search on BBB Scam Tracker for “iPhone pop up” reveals three reports this year along with descriptions. By expanding that search to “phone pop ups,” 78 additional reports have been made in 2017.
On its website, Apple advises, “When you browse the web, you might see a pop-up ad or a page warning you about a problem with your device. It might even look like the alert is coming from macOS or iOS. It isn’t. These alerts are pop-up ads, designed to trick you into calling a phony support number or buying an app that claims to fix the issue. Don’t call the number. Simply close the pop-up ad, or navigate away from that page and continue browsing."
Malware pop ups designed to gain access to mobile devices are the next generation of tech scams, which first appeared on desktop environments. For more information on consumer news and scams and how to avoid them, visit bbb.org.