File photo Creative Commons
Hide Caption

Ransomware scams get worse for holidays

Don't Waste Your Money

a a a a
Share this story

The FBI this holiday is warning about a new wave of scams known as "ransomware," because rather than asking you for money, they threaten you.

They tell you your computer will be permanently locked up, or you may even be arrested, if you don't pay a $200 fine through Pay Pal or a Green Dot Money Card.

And the newest version, called "Cryptolocker" may be impossible to remove if it locks up you PC.

Screen Suddenly Locks Up

Jennifer Werner sat down at her PC  and couldn't believe what she was seeing: a web page she had never seen before had taken over her computer.

"I walked in and saw a screen up on the computer, and it had the FBI logo," she said, "and I thought someone in the house had done something wrong or by accident."

The FBI alert stated that she had visited an illegal website, and as a result was being locked out of her web access.

To unlock it, it told her to pay a $200 fine.

Werner said "they wanted money. They wanted a $200 Green Dot Money Pack card to unblock your computer."

Online Extortion, or "Ransomware"

She got suspicious: Send the fine by reloadable debit card from a drugstore?

She realized then it was a new type of online extortion, a virus known as "ransomware." It is downloaded when you click on a questionable website or email.

In some cases it uses your webcam to take a picture of you and display it back to you: That's even more scary.

So Werner and her husband searched on their smartphones for a way to remove it, and found a number of webpages on Google for removing what's called the "FBI Green Dot Moneypack Virus."

"I hit the reboot button," Dan Werner explained. " I hit F12, went to the reboot screen, and followed instructions to do a self clean, a system restore."

If this happens to you, search on another computer or phone for the fix. Or call a computer repair shop.

Jennifer's just glad she didn't pay the ransom.

FBI Warns About More Advanced New Scams

Since we first spoke with Jennifer back in February 2013, the FBI says these scams have gotten even more sophisticated.

Some threaten arrest, or utility disconnect.

Another has the potential to permanently disable your computer.  It is known as the Cryptolocker PC virus.

At this point, removing Cryptolocker requires a full wipe of your hard drive, losing all your files, according to security experts.

Bottom line: Assume any email or online notice from the government is a scam, especially if it doesn't include your name specifically in the notice.

The FBI, IRS, or other agencies will not e-mail you: They will write or show up with a knock on your door.

       -So never wire money, or pay by Pay Pal or Green Dot card to a threat.

       -And never open strange, unexpected attachments to any email you receive.

That way you don't waste your money.

_____________________________________

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

"Like" John Matarese on Facebook

Follow John on Twitter (@DWYM)

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More DWYM
Consumer investigation: Store scanner errors
Consumer investigation: Store scanner errors

John Matarese goes undercover to find store cash registers with the most errors

Cincinnati gas prices jump to 8-month high
Cincinnati gas prices jump to 8-month high

John Matarese looks into the rising price of gasoline

Need MRI or CT scan? How to save hundreds
Need MRI or CT scan? How to save hundreds

John Matarese shows a great alternative to expensive hospital scans

Free Shred Day this Saturday
Free Shred Day this Saturday

John Matarese has details on a  major free shredding event

Apps that can be dangerous for children
Apps that can be dangerous for children

Is it really a friend or is it a predator? Unless you are actively monitoring your child's smartphone and tablet apps, you are not…

Gasoline, beef prices soaring
Gasoline, beef prices soaring

John Matarese looks into higher prices hitting just as spring arrives

'Heartbleed' flaw exposes millions of passwords
'Heartbleed' flaw exposes millions of passwords

An alarming lapse in Internet security has exposed millions of passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive bits of information to…

How to save BIG on Reds tickets
How to save BIG on Reds tickets

If you couldn't make it to Opening Day, there’s still plenty of time to see the Cincinnati Reds this season – and for cheap.

"One Ring" phone scam getting worse

John Matarese warns about the "One-Ring" scam

Cobalt, Saturn owners anxious for repair
Cobalt, Saturn owners anxious for repair

John Matarese reports on the wait for ignition switch repairs