“Malware” is any kind of computer bug with malicious intent. It can affect your computer, tablet, or phone in many ways. One type of malware, called “spyware,” is designed to steal your personal information. “Adware” displays unwanted ads. “Ransomware” can hold your device hostage until you pay the scammer to unlock it.
How the Scam Works:
Malware is often spread by “phishing” messages, where the target either clicks on a link to a rogue website or downloads an infected attachment. Scammers use spyware to collect personally identifying information (PII) that can be used for identity theft. Some malware can even take control of your device and use it to spread the virus to others (if you’ve received an odd email from a friend asking for money or making another strange request, it’s likely they’ve been hooked by a phishing scam). With the ransomware scam, a pop-up appears announcing that all the files on the device have been encrypted or frozen. The “key” to unlock the device can cost a lot (the range is $200 to $10,000), and is payable by untraceable methods such as Bitcoin.
Tips to Spot This Scam:
To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.
To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.
Last Reviewed: March 7, 2017