First, thanks to intrepid reader Debra P who emailed me that she was seeing a malware pop up when she tried to print coupons from my Coupons.com affiliate links. As I waited in line at the bank (which is where I was when I got her email), I started searching for answers on my iPhone. I think I've gotten to the bottom of it.
From this post over at Hip2Save, I gathered this info that she had received directly from PR/Customer Service at Coupons.com:
Hello Couponers! My name is Rich and I am a Support Engineer at Coupons.com.
We are sorry to hear about these reports of viruses on our website and we have already reviewed our code to make certain that this issue is not being caused by or originating from our end.
The problems being described here indicate that some of our users are being tricked by a browser redirect trojan that has been sitting latently on their local machine since it was downloaded, most likely from a questionable file sharing network file, questionable email, questionable website, even an instant messaging program with sharing rights enabled.
The trojan modifies your web browser to redirect to a malicious website that is made to look like a Microsoft “My Computer” window running a fake virus scan that is detecting non-existent threats on their computer. This is not a real Microsoft window, you are not seeing a real virus scanner, the threats being shown do not really exist. There is only one virus here and that’s the one that keeps sending you to the malicious website. In that sense it is a pretty mild threat to your computer other than being very annoying and possibly scary.
This is a popular scam that resurfaces around the web from time to time. It is meant to draw people into downloading a real trojan that will continue to annoy its victims with more fake virus alerts even more persistently until they submit to and purchase a fake program that does absolutely nothing. The scammer can then attempt to use that credit card information for other purposes. Please do not follow the instructions on this malicious website. When you see it, close your browser.
There is a lot of useful information on the Internet on how to identify the source of and remove the trojan responsible for this annoyance. Please visit Google and search for “Fake AVG 2011″ for more information about this issue and how to remove it from you computer.
Again I wanted to reassure you that Coupons.com is not infected with a virus, and is not infecting your computer with a virus either. Our website is likely being targeted by the redirect virus on your computer by some logic unknown to us, probably because it is a popular site in your browsing history. My recommendation is to research the issue through Google, follow the solutions to neutralize the redirect virus, and use caution moving forward when downloading unknown emails, files, and websites to ensure it doesn’t find its way back on to your machine again.
Many thanks to Hip2Save for posting that direct answer above from the reps at Coupons.com.
So, what can/should you do if you use Coupons.com to print coupons OR if you are an affiliate of Coupons.com?
:: Check to see if this malware opens up when you try to print coupons from coupons.com on your computer/check your affiliate links to see if it opens when you try to print from your computer. Again, this malware is a REDIRECT virus that is NOT part of the coupons.com affiliate link code but simply is using the coupons.com site address to redirect your browser (this is a trojan type virus). If it appears, close down your browser immediately or simply shut down your computer - do NOT click on any of the popup boxes. I had to shut down one of my computers when it showed up today for me.
:: Run a system scan of your computer using your anti-virus software; this may not be enough to clean this very sneaky virus off your hard disk.
:: Google for manual instructions on "how to remove fake avg 2011 virus". I've found one set of instructions here but you will find many sites with instructions on how to get rid of this malware.
:: Check all your computers for this malware. I have (3) computers myself to clean and am really grinding my teeth at how much time I'm going to have to spend on fixing this today. Grr.....!!
:: BEWARE any and all suspicious files/downloads/links. I consider myself VERY computer/net savvy and I'm still dealing with this issue. Also, because it has just occured to me that this may have happened from a site my kids visit (ie: Nick Jr, PBS, DisneyXD), STRESS to your kiddos they SHOULD NEVER CLICK ON POPUPS OR CRAZY LINKS!! Oy!!
To any/all of you out there dealing with this little mess, I am ever ever so sorry. It looks like Coupons.com is not the origin but simply is the vehicle for this trojan horse virus to get activated if you've already got it downloaded on your computer.
In the meantime, I am removing my affiliate banner for Coupons.com from my sidebar in case someone else might be affected and if/when I have time today (!!), I will scrub my Coupons.com links from posts for the same reason. Even though Coupons.com is technically in the clear on this and they are a paying affiliate for me, I'd rather not have any of you out there having to deal with this issue as well.
If you have questions for the folks at Coupons.com, you can call them at (650) 605-4600 or contact them online with their contact form.
God bless y'all - I love ya!