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Issue #583: September 23-29, 2018

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Q: Had a loud ad crash my Outlook account. It could not be deleted. Kept flashing, saying I had a virus and had to call Microsoft. I was unable to delete it or exit Microsoft Edge.   I finally had to go to Task Manager and exit Edge.  Now I cannot get into Outlook. Here is the error code data: Type Error: Unable to get property ‘bootstrapMailModule’ of undefined or null reference. The estack error is the same statement.  I can run Outlook via Chrome but not Edge. I cannot uninstall Edge or Outlook. I’ve tried to “repair” Edge via the app site.  What can I do?

 – Ralph S.
Freeport, Florida

A:  That was no ad, Ralph.  That was pure, bold-faced, malware.  More specifically, that was a particular type of malware called scareware, which is a type of malicious software that attempts to frighten unsuspecting users into taking some action, such as calling a phone number.  Had you done so, the person on the other end (likely with a heavy foreign accent) would have pumped you for information, then would probably have requested that you grant them remote access to your computer, at which point they would have “found” any number of non-existent problems.  They probably would have offered to fix it for you for a steep price, which would require you to supply your credit card number.  Rather than fix anything (since nothing is actually wrong) they would probably use the access to your computer to implant more malware, capable of doing heaven only knows what, from harvesting your personal information to making your PC into a zombie sleeper agent for a giant botnet, waiting to be called into service for the next big denial-of-service attack.  The net effect of this would be that you would have paid someone to steal your identity and put malware on your computer.  Sounds crazy, but enough people continue to fall for this that it makes it worth their while to keep at it.

Well, forewarned is forearmed, I believe, and I’m glad you recognized the signs, and didn’t fall into the trap.  I’ve been harping about this type of Internet fraud here in this column for over 11 years now, but a few hallmarks of this type of scam bear repeating.  First of all, Microsoft does not now, and never has, provided technical support in this manner.  They will never pop-up a phone number, lock-up your browser, and demand that you call them.  For that matter, I don’t know of any other software publisher that would do business that way either.  Second, just because something says it’s from Microsoft doesn’t mean it truly is from Microsoft.  Lately, I’ve even gotten repeated robo-calls in which a stilted computer voice states something to the effect “We have detected that someone at this number is currently using a Microsoft product.  That person is required to contact us immediately due to suspected fraud.”  I’ve also gotten ones that claim to be the IRS, my local police department, etc.  We don’t fall for any of those scams at the Geek House.  I hope you don’t fall for them either.

As for your browser problem, the fact that your Outlook account works with other browsers, but not with Edge indicates there is not a problem with the e-mail account itself.  If the account were somehow damaged, it wouldn’t work from anywhere.  So, let’s assume that the problem lies entirely within the Edge browser.  Whatever was corrupted there was probably affected by your malware run-in.

Descriptions that I’ve read of similar problems indicate that it usually goes away after the next Windows update.  As we’ve recently had a “Patch Tuesday” release, I’m hoping that perhaps your problem has solved itself by the time you read this.  Just in case that hasn’t happened, I’m happy to provide some repair instructions that don’t involve uninstalling it

Start by clicking the Start button, then the gear icon.  Click on “Apps” and the settings for Apps & features will open.  Scroll the list down until you find “Microsoft Edge”.  Select it, and click “Advanced Options”.  Scroll down to the “Reset” area.  Be sure and read the descriptions.  Try “Repair” first, since it doesn’t affect any of your stored data.  If that doesn’t fix the problem, use “Reset”.  As it says, you’ll lose your browsing history, but that would seem to be a small price to pay to get rid of your problem.

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