Today’s episode of Scambook TV is a warning about ransomware, a cyber scam that’s threatening consumers online. Ransomware is a computer virus/malware program that borrows its tactics from kidnapping; hackers seize control of your computer and demand you pay a ransom to unlock it. Recently, hackers have been targeting victims with ransomware that impersonates the FBI.
Kevan describes how computer users get a message that claims to be from firstname.lastname@example.org, informing the user that their computer has been frozen due to copyright violations. To “pay your fines” and unlock your computer, according to the scam, you must pay $200 via MoneyPak. As Kevan says in the video, this scam may look very official but don’t fall for it! We recommend disconnecting your internet, running your antivirus software and (if necessary) restoring your operating system.
What’s worse than a virus that cripples your computer? A virus that cripples your computer and blackmails you. That’s what ransomware does. The latest ransomware to threaten consumers also impersonates the FBI. Here at Scambook, we’ve received over 50 complaints about hackers posing as email@example.com and exhorting consumers for $200 paid via MoneyPak.
How CyberCrime@FBI.gov Ransomware Works
Here’s how this fraud scheme works. Hackers infect your computer with the malware virus and then a pop-up window appears and freezes your computer. The message claims to be sent by firstname.lastname@example.org. It states that an FBI Cyber Crime Agent has caught you violating copyright law by downloading and distributing illegal mp3 or movie files.
If you’re not familiar with internet fraud, the message may look very official and convincing — it may threaten you with jail time or even hijack your webcam and play a video of you “caught in the act.”
To release your computer and pay your “fines,” the ransomware instructs you to pay $200 via MoneyPak.
Here’s a screen shot of one version of this scam:
Don’t Fall For this Scam
This is not the real FBI. Even if you have violated copyright law by downloading illegal software or mp3s, the FBI won’t issue citations via pop-up window messages that freeze your computer. They’re certainly not going to ask you to pay your fines via MoneyPak or wire transfer, either.
If you’ve been a victim of the email@example.com ransomware, here’s what we recommend:
1. Disconnect your internet. Unplug your modem or turn off your wifi so the hackers won’t be able to control your computer by remote access.
2. Run your antivirus software and scan for spyware. If you follow our advice and keep your security software up-to-date, it should clear out the ransomware files and return your system to normal.
However, ransomware can be very sophisticated. If your antivirus software doesn’t take care of the problem, or if your computer is so frozen that you can’t even get your antivirus software to load, you’ll need to do a system restore.
How To Restore Your Windows or Mac Operating System
If you’re using Windows, here’s what Microsoft recommends to restore your system:
1. Open System Restore by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button. In the search box, type System Restore, and then, in the list of results, click System Restore. Administrator permission required If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
2. Follow the steps in the wizard to choose a restore point and restore your computer.
If you’re using a Mac, Apple suggests these steps:
Just hold down Command-R during startup and OS X Recovery springs into action. It lets you choose from common utilities: You can run Disk Utility to check or repair your hard drive, erase your hard drive and reinstall a fresh copy of OS X, or restore your Mac from a Time Machine backup. You can even use Safari to get help from Apple Support online. And if OS X Recovery encounters problems, it will automatically connect to Apple over the Internet.
If these methods don’t clear the ransomware from your computer, call your manufacturer’s customer support line for help or visit your local PC repair shop or Apple Store.
Have You Been Scammed by a Fake FBI Agent?
What do you think about this firstname.lastname@example.org scam? Have you ever been scammed by someone impersonating a government official? Share your stories in the comments!
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