'Ransom ware' scam holds computers hostage - Tucson News Now

'Ransom ware' scam holds computers hostage

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

How much would you pay if someone hijacked your computer and demanded a fee?

The con artists behind a scam called "ransom ware," which can infect a computer and hold it hostage, are hoping the answer is a lot.

"I clicked on a couple of sites; started looking at pictures of Ernie, Elmo and all of a sudden then the screen froze up."
 
Jeannine was planning for her son's two-year-old birthday party online when all of a sudden her computer screen changed.
 
"Instead of looking at Ernie and Elmo, I am faced with what reported to be the seal of the FBI and with that was a warning or a message. It said that I had committed several federal offenses, I was subject to fines and mandatory imprisonment."
 
The long-time attorney admits she panicked.
 
"I was horrified and that is an understatement. The thought of having my bar card torn away from me after all that, I had no idea what I was doing. The thought of me sitting in jail, what is going to happen to my kids, my husband?"
 
After the initial shock, Jeannine knew there was something strange when she saw a payment option at the bottom of the site for $300.
 
"It will then tell you you need to take certain steps to "unfreeze" your computer usually involves going out to a Walgreens, Walmart and buying a prepaid card; most often a green dot card or a money gram card and then sending that information to the people who control this."
 
Postal inspectors say in some cases there are blatant messages: "Your computer has been locked" then, "How to unlock your computer" with instructions on sending payments.  
 
"This is a home invasion and they have broken into your home and they have done it electronically and if we're not careful they will be able to get to the exact same things we're trying to protect with an alarm system on our house."
 
Postal inspectors recommend when you set up a computer always create two user accounts so if one way is blocked by con artists, you have a second entryway.
 
That is why Jeannine was able to regain control of her computer but many others haven't been as lucky.
 
"If you're scared enough and you don't understand it's a scam you're going to lose your money is gone, your credit card will be maxed out."

Experts say the most important thing for ransomware victims is to not pay the cyber criminals any money. You need to go to another computer and start searching for a solution, which you will always be able to find on the Internet. All antivirus companies post free instructions and utilities to help users unblock their computers.

The following antivirus companies post free instructions and utilities to help users unblock their computers:

http://www.symantec.com/endpoint-protection

http://promos.mcafee.com/Offer.aspx?id=439873

http://www.webroot.com/us/en/home/affiliates/wsc-29?sc=701F0000000dDO4


https://www.bullguard.com/lp/aff/compare_products.aspx

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