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Scam Alert

Is Your Computer Infected?

Know the warning signs of 'malware,' then act quickly to remove it

How to protect your computer

If you think you've got malware, follow these steps:

1. Disconnect your computer from the Internet and its power source, then reconnect the wires and restart in safe mode. On a Windows PC, hold down F8 as soon as the reboot begins, then choose "safe mode" from the menu that appears. On a Mac, hold down the shift key while restarting.

Check for updates to your antivirus software, then perform a complete scan.

2. If your antivirus software is acting strangely or is missing, start your computer with a rescue CD — a special disc that contains your computer's operating system and allows you to start your machine even if your hard disk is corrupted.

Sometimes a rescue disk is supplied with your computer. Or use someone else's computer to create one from free downloads at any of these sites: AVG, Avira, BitDefender or F-Secure. (You should do this before you have problems.)

3. Check the website of your antivirus software vendor for additional information or software patches that will remove a particular malicious program.

If no malware is found, but problems continue, it's best to have your computer examined by a technician.

You may also like: How to maintain your computer.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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