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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Western Michigan
Scam Alert: Computer Ransomware
November 13, 2012
“Your PC is blocked due to the illegal viewing or distribution of copyrighted content,” reads an official-looking warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “To unblock the computer, you must pay the fine of $100.”
 
This is a scam. This warning is not from the FBI. Do not send any money.
 
Better Business Bureau has recently received increasing reports of ransomware. This malware locks users out of computers for allegedly downloading copyrighted content—videos, music, software or pornography—and threatens legal action to collect fines.
 
One Anchorage-based consumer thought it was peculiar that the federal government would request payment by MoneyPak, but made the transfer anyways; it is doubtful that he will recover his $200.
 
Ransomware is usually installed by clicking malicious attachments or links in email messages, instant messages, social networking sites or other websites; once infected, hijacked computers become completely unusable.
 
The official-looking warnings appear to come from legitimate agencies—police, FBI, RIAA—and often cite specific statutes, penalties and prison time. Scam notices request that fines be paid by wire transfer or MoneyPak.
 
Due to the complex nature of this scam, infected computers will likely need to be taken to computer repair experts.
 
Check with the Internet Crime Complaint Center and BBB’s Scam Source for more warnings on computer scams.