KCBD Investigates: FBI Computer Scam - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

KCBD Investigates: FBI Computer Scam


A virus that locks up your PC and posts a fake message from the FBI is causing concern among Lubbock computer users.

The virus literally holds your computer hostage, unless you pay a fine, or get help from a professional.

This "ransomware" virus is popping up on computer screens across the country.

"It pops up, and whether you hit yes, no or cancel - no matter what you hit - it's going to install in the background," said J Hollinshead, owner of Network and Security Solutions.

The virus grabs your attention with bold red print making accusations of child pornography.

The message says if you don't pay within 72 hours, you'll get arrested and the only way to unlock it is to buy a prepaid card.

A lot of people pay the "fine" simply because of how official the web site looks.

Hollinshead says they use the FBI seal, but the real FBI web site is fbi.gov.

Hollinshead has come into contact with this virus quite a few times and has seen the scam demand anywhere from $200 to $500.

Hollinshead says there are thousands of variations in the virus world, but most of them aren't new.

"They're just tweaked a little bit to make them new," he said.

The best way to prevent this virus, or any other, is to continually update your computer. Allow automatic updates to your operating system and don't delay too long when a new update becomes available.

But if it's already too late, Hollinshead suggests backing up your important documents with an external hard drive or USB.

"If it's totally locked up, reboot your Windows, hit F8 to go into Safe Mode, then once you go into safe mode, you can get around the virus that way," Hollinshead said.

You can copy your files while you're in Safe Mode and reformat your primary drive.

Hollinshead then says installing up to date antivirus software can help you prevent future scams.

"Norton Power Eraser is a good program that will probably fix it. MalwareBytes will sometimes get it, but your best bet on that virus is to reload your entire machine," said Hollinshead. "If you have your operating system software, then you just reinstall everything."

Hollinshead says if the FBI really is after you, there won't be a notice...

"FBI and Homeland Security, in all the times we've dealt with them, they don't put a warning on your computer. They come and take your computer," he said.

We contacted the FBI to get their take on the matter. Although they declined an on-camera interview, they did direct us to their web site, which specifically addresses this virus.

The FBI advises:

That you not pay any money or provide any personal information. They also advise contacting a computer professional to remove any ransom-ware on your personal device.

Another word of advice from Hollinshead... He says to avoid using Internet Explorer and opt for a less popular browser, like Opera.

"Are they going to write something that attacks the little bitty browsers that are barely being used, or are they going to hit the masses? They're going to hit the masses because they get their credibility on the different sites," he said.

If you'd like more information on how to protect yourself from future computer viruses, you can visit the FBI's website at http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2012/august/new-internet-scam.

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