The digital world has been eagerly awaiting the release of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system, said to be a big improvement over Windows 8. (There is no Windows 9.) The software started to roll out to consumers on July 29, but it may take several weeks for everyone to get it. Meanwhile, scammers are taking advantage of consumers anxious to get their hands on it. 

A fake but official-looking email that comes from an email address offers an immediate download of the software. What consumers get instead is a world of trouble.

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The email's text prompts the user to download the new software using a .zip file attached to the email. However, if you open the file, what you download is a type of malware called ransomware.

Once the ransomware takes over the computer, the user receives a request to pay up to get their computer back. Payments are normally requested via Bitcoin, an untraceable digital currency.

The scam was originally discovered by Cisco's security team.

The email looks like this.

windows 10 scam email

(Photo: Cisco Blog/Cisco) 

Microsoft isn't sending new software updates through email, so if you any email that offers one, delete it immediately.

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How to avoid malware

Don't open unexpected attachments. Don't click on any attachments from unknown senders or unexpected attachments from software companies. Don't click on download links within an email, either.

Look for spelling errors. Cisco suggests looking for mangled characters or spelling errors within the body of an email when you're unsure about its origin. A fake message may also show up within the email alerting you that the content has been scanned for viruses.

email character errorAn example of the scam Windows 10 email (Photo: Cisco Blog/Cisco ) 

Stay alert. Hackers evolve their scams quickly and often change their tactics to continue to fool users. Even if you don't see any of these signs, be wary of any incoming emails from Microsoft.

How to safely download Windows 10

Visit  Microsoft's official site for instructions on how to upgrade your system, or simply wait for your computer to notify you when it’s ready to install.

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Muriel Vega is a writer with a passion for budget travel and staying safe while abroad. A Georgia State University graduate, she has over 6 years of editorial experience and has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Billfold, among other outlets. In her free time, you can find her baking pies, playing with her two dogs and cat, or planning her next vacation. She spends way too much time on Twitter, one of her favorite social media channels. Her favorite safety tip: Make sure you have all the necessary shots before you go abroad.