'Ransomware' malware computer pop-up threatens fine, arrest
EL MIRAGE, Ariz. - It's a problem affecting a lot of computer users. You get an official-looking warning on your screen, supposedly from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or the Department or Justice, accusing you of viewing illegal websites.
Then it asks you to pay a fine. It's called Ransomware. It's not real, but some people are falling for it.
Scammers are targeting people by claiming they've committed a crime and that they'll be arrested if they don't pay $200 to $300.
Like hundreds of other people, the El Mirage woman we talked to never did anything wrong but still got the dreaded message.
Erika Ruedas was rudely interrupted when trying to watch a Miley Cyrus parody video.
"It was so weird, at first I was like no, that's so weird and obviously not true... this is a scam and this is not the fake crazy accusations listed, saying I had done on my computer," says Ruedas.
It's called Ransomware, and it accuses the user of watching child pornography, bestiality, and even child abuse.
"Then it popped up again and it had a recording, you have to pay $200 or you can't use the internet."
Many pop-ups in this scam use your webcam to take a photo of you and claim they caught you in the act.
"We've seen about 115 different versions of this now becoming a bigger and bigger problem," says Ken Colburn of Data Doctors.
Ken Colburn says the culprits are using clever techniques known as social engineering -- things you wouldn't normally fall for. But one man, 21-year-old Jay Matthew Riley of Virginia, fell for it so hard he even walked into the police department and turned himself in for watching child pornography -- even though the alert was just a scam.
"There was no point where I was even thinking about giving money."
Erika's brother Googled how to clean out the Ransomware and get her computer running, but Colburn warns that people are now putting up fake instructions for people looking for a fast fix.
"Be very careful about where you go on the internet, a lot of traps are out there to further infect you, so you should consult someone who knows how to attack this particular strain," says Colburn.
Erika said her anti-virus protection had just expired, so she'll be updating that.
If you think you're safe from Ransomware because you own a Mac, think again. Scammers are now targeting Apple users as well