How To Protect Yourself From the Apple Security Alert Scam

Avoid falling victim to the Apple security alert scam — learn how to remove it and protect yourself with an antivirus program.
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If you receive a pop-up notification on your Mac saying it’s been compromised or hacked, then it’s a fake Apple security alert. First, don’t call any numbers or click on any links associated with the fake pop-ups. While the pop-up ad itself may not be malware, it can definitely lead to you getting scammed by cybercriminals impersonating tech support. Next, you’ll want to remove the underlying issue causing the fake security alert.

The Apple security alert scam is a potentially unwanted program (PUP) that can compromise your personal and financial information. Don’t worry, though, it’s easy to remove with a reliable antivirus solution, and you’ll be relieved to no longer see that menacing message on your screen.

We’ll walk you through how to get rid of these fake Apple security alerts and protect your personal data.

In this article
How to remove the Apple security alert scam from your Mac
How to remove the Apple security alert scam from your iPhone or iPad
What is the Apple security alert scam?
How to protect your Apple device from malware
FAQs
Bottom line

How to remove the Apple security alert scam from your Mac

You’ll need to take a few steps to remove these fake Apple security alerts from your MacBook. The first step is to manually stop and disable malicious extensions on your browser that may be causing the issue. (We explain how to do this below.) The next is to run a virus scan with your antivirus software. Finally, if you find malicious software, you’ll need to quarantine and remove the malware to prevent further malware infections.

You can only disable browser extensions manually, so there isn’t a program you can run to check them. You can, however, add a reputable ad and tracker blocker to your browser to help stop suspicious extensions. If your blocker stops something, make sure you don’t allow it to run unless you’re sure it’s safe.

Remove suspicious extensions from your browser

  1. Open your Safari browser.
  2. On the Safari menu bar, go to Settings.
  3. Click on the Extensions tab.
  4. Uncheck boxes next to any suspicious extensions you wish to uninstall.
  5. Close Safari.
  6. Open Safari to make sure the extensions are gone.

If you happen to use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox on your Apple device, we’ve created a guide on how to remove suspicious extensions from those browsers as well.

Run an antivirus scan on your Mac

  1. Open your antivirus program.
  2. Click on the full disk scan option.
  3. Run the scan.
  4. Quarantine and delete any files flagged by your antivirus.
  5. Run another full disk scan.
  6. Repeat until no viruses or malware remain.
  7. Turn off your Mac.
  8. Remove the power source.
  9. Wait 60 seconds.
  10. Reboot your Mac.
  11. Run another full disk scan to make sure everything is clean.

Delete infected profiles

  1. Click on the Apple menu in the top-left corner of your screen.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click on Profiles.
  4. Select any unfamiliar or suspicious profiles.
  5. Click on the minus (-) button to remove them.
  6. Confirm the removal when prompted.

How to remove the Apple security alert scam from your iPhone or iPad

If the fake Apple security warnings pop up on your iOS device, it’s important not to click on anything. Instead, take the steps below to remove the scam. Removing malware from an iPhone is a little different, but still pretty easy. Deleting iOS apps from an iPhone or iPad is even easier than deleting them from a Mac.

It’s likely that you didn’t pick this up from the official Apple App Store unless you have a jailbroken phone. However, it’s possible for any app to be infected, so deleting spammy games or apps that push a lot of ads is a good practice for any mobile device. If it looks kind of suspicious, it’s best not to download it at all.

Clear Safari browsing history and data

  1. Unlock your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Scroll down to Safari.
  4. Tap Clear History and Website Data.
  5. Confirm the action.

Clearing the browsing history will affect all devices you are signed in to with your Apple ID. This means you’ll lose your cookies and likely have to re-enter passwords or redo other security measures. Also, you might notice a minor lag in loading a site, but the cookies will reinstall once you visit your normal internet haunts.

Uninstall suspicious apps

  1. Locate the suspicious app. If you’re having difficulty locating a specific app, pull down on the screen and use the Search function.
  2. Hold your finger on the app until a menu appears.
  3. Tap Remove App (-).
  4. Delete apps and all their contents when prompted.
  5. Repeat until all unrecognized apps are removed from the device.

What is the Apple security alert scam?

This particular scam is something known as scareware, which isn’t necessarily dangerous but can lead to worse things. It falls under the general umbrella of malware, which is software with malicious intent.

Some malware, like ransomware, is a little more difficult to pick up on your device because of antivirus and antimalware programs. These other less egregious forms of malware, however, can be embedded in shady websites or attached to what you think is a legitimate download.

If you run across one of these infected items, you can pick up the scareware, which will, in turn, show you fake security alerts and virus warnings. It’s really effective, but ultimately it’s just a phishing technique to get you to give the hacker access to your device. This is why you should never call a number or click a link from any of these pop-ups. The hacker doesn’t have access until you grant it.

Apple doesn’t send security alerts. That’s why you can rest assured that every single one of these is phony. If Apple finds a security flaw, it will work on the developer side to update it and then push out an update to your phone. That’s why you should set Apple security updates to be automatically downloaded so you always have the most current security.

What are the warning signs of an Apple security scam?

The biggest warning sign is the pop-up itself. You could also experience browser redirects taking you somewhere you hadn’t requested.

There’s also the telltale slowdown that happens when trying to use your computer. Most of the time, however, you’ll get the pop-up first to redirect you to more nefarious sites or services.

If you are experiencing some kind of slow down, it’s good to run an antivirus scan. It’s even better if your antivirus offers performance enhancement tools specifically for Mac. Regular maintenance on your computer will extend its life and keep it running smoothly.

How to protect your Apple device from malware

Antivirus is a great way to keep your devices protected from malware threats, but it’s not the only approach to take. You can bundle or stack your security products as well as learn more about scams to keep yourself protected. Here’s some of our recommendations:

  • Use antivirus software with real-time protection.
  • Download a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic and hide your online activity.
  • Use ad blockers and tracker blockers to keep adware from infecting your device.
  • Use a firewall when appropriate.
  • Create a different unique, complex password for all your online accounts.
  • Keep your passwords in a safe place, like a password manager.
  • Check email addresses for validity before clicking links or opening attachments.
  • Never share personal data on a call you don’t initiate.
  • Never initiate a call unless you have the verified support number from the company’s actual website.

Best antivirus for Apple devices

Because of Apple’s strict security rules, which help make Macs more secure overall, not all antivirus programs work well on its platform. You’ll want to make sure you have an antivirus program either made specifically for Mac or one that works well with Mac. Below are our picks of the best antivirus programs for Mac:

  • CleanMyMac X: CleanMyMac X was built for Macs, so you won’t have to worry about compatibility. In addition to antivirus and antimalware, it also has performance enhancement tools that help keep your Mac running smoothly. We liked how fun and intuitive it is when you’re using it.

    Get CleanMyMac X | Read CleanMyMac X Review

  • AVG: AVG is a freemium service where the base software is free, but you’ll need to purchase a subscription for more. The free version takes care of viruses and malware though, so if that’s your goal, you can use it and be protected. We liked that malware was blocked with the free version.

    Get AVG | Read AVG Review

  • Avast: Avast, like AVG, is a freemium service with protection specifically for Mac. You can upgrade to a paid plan if you want a VPN or other security features to enhance your Mac’s performance. We also liked that Avast scored well in antivirus testing.

    Get Avast | Read Avast Review

FAQs


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Is the Apple security alert real?

No, the Apple security alert is not real. Apple doesn’t really send security warnings, so every instance you see of this on your macOS or iOS device is a scam.

Never click on these or call any number associated with the pop-up. The best thing you can do is remove suspicious apps and extensions, clear your browser history, and run an antivirus scan on any affected device.


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Does Apple send threat notifications?

No, Apple threat notifications don’t exist. Apple, like other software companies, evaluates its products for potential security threats and sends out software updates to patch any problems found.

You should keep your Apple devices updated with the most recent version of your operating system to keep safe from new and emerging threats.


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How do I know if an email from Apple is legit?

You can tell if an Apple email is legit by looking at the sender address. Apple emails have a short email with an @apple.com variation. Typical email addresses will look something like this: applesupport@email.apple.com. A spam email is much more likely to have a long string of letters and numbers and no mention of Apple after the at (@) symbol.

This is also true for any company, including the U.S. Postal Service or Amazon. Legit companies will have shorter email addresses that typically have their name in the domain. One of the best ways to protect yourself against spam is to check the email address.

Bottom line

If Apple security alerts pop up on your device, don’t worry. It looks scary, but it’s completely fake and your Apple devices are likely fine. You can remove the Apple security alert scam by deleting suspicious extensions and apps and using an antivirus to clear it off your device. Then, you’ll want to install protective software like a VPN and ad blockers to keep yourself from getting infected again.

The best antivirus for Macs is one that was built either for Mac or has great reviews working with the Mac operating system. Making sure the product you use includes real-time protection will hopefully keep you safe in the future. While you can never be 100% protected, you can take steps to reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim.

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Author Details
Mary lives in Los Angeles and has been a cybersecurity writer for over five years. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, her career in online security began in sales and content creation for a private cybersecurity firm.