Blount hit by cyber scammers: Cons use seals of FBI, Justice Department to extort money
By Dick Byrd | Daily Times Correspondent
If your computer is locked up and the notice on the screen says the FBI has blocked your computer, you’re probably the victim of a scam. A Maryville computer repair expert says he has seen many of these lately.
The locked-up screen shows the seals of the FBI, the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. It says, “Your computer has been locked due to suspicion of illegal content downloading and distribution.”
The screen also says you have violated a federal law downloading and distributing child pornography, subject to “…a mandatory term of imprisonment from 4 to 30 years and shall be fined up to $250,000.”
The screen message then tells you if you want to avoid the big fine you can go to Walmart, K-Mart, Rite-Aid, 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens and buy a “Moneypak” for $300 cash and then enter the Moneypak number on the screen to unlock your computer.
According to the FBI, the agency does not send mass emails to private citizens about cyber scams, so if you received an email that claims to be from the FBI director or another top official, it is most likely a scam.
‘All over Internet’
“It is a scam I’ve seen it a lot,” said Jeanie Hoskins, vice president of operations with the Tennessee Better Business Bureau. “It is all over the Internet, not just in “bad” places.
“It happens to all types of users. It is a pesky virus that can be hard to remove. If it is not removed 100 percent correctly, it could easily be re-infected the next time the computer is exposed to whatever caused it the first time.
“I’ve seen it infect PCs that have all different kinds of virus protection, Norton, MacAfee, Microsoft. I’ve seen it get past them all.”
State officials have also forwarded federal government information, including FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
The IC3 has been made aware of a new Citadel malware platform used to deliver ransomware, named Reveton. The ransomware lures the victim to a drive-by download website, at which time the ransomware is installed on the user’s computer. Once installed, the computer freezes and a screen is displayed warning the user they have violated federal law.
The message further declares the user’s IP address was identified by the FBI as visiting child pornography and other illegal content.
To unlock the computer, the user is instructed to pay a fine to the U.S. Department of Justice, using prepaid money card services. The geographic location of the user’s IP address determines what payment services are offered.
In addition to the ransomware, the Citadel malware continues to operate on the compromised computer and can be used to commit online banking and credit card fraud.
This is an attempt to extort money with the additional possibility of the victim’s computer being used to participate in online bank fraud. If you have received this or something similar, do not follow payment instructions. Infected computers may not operate normally.
If your computer is infected, you may need to contact a local computer expert for assistance to remove the malware.
This scam is currently hitting computers across Blount County and all over East Tennessee. It costs $60 or more to rid your computer of this “ransomware.”