The newest form of computer scams comes in the form of “Ransomware”. Once on your computer, the virus blocks further use and asks for your money to restore it.
Ransomware is used to intimidate victims into paying a fine to “unlock” their computers. The ransomware has been called “FBI Ransomware” because it frequently uses the FBI’s name, but similar ransomware campaigns have used the names of other law enforcement agencies such as DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and IC3 (FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center).
The ransomware using the name of DHS or other official agency, produces a warning that accuses victims of violating various U.S. laws and locks their computers. To unlock their computers and avoid legal issues, victims are told they must pay a $300 fine via a prepaid money card.
This is not a legitimate communication from law enforcement, but rather is an attempt to extort money from the victim. If you have received this or something similar, do not follow the instructions.
Here is a list of the more common methods of infection so that you know what to look out for:
- Malicious links: (never click on a link unless you know the target destination is safe)
- Drive-by downloads: these are the download of spyware, a computer virus, or any kind of malware that happen without knowledge of the user. Drive-by downloads may happen when you visit a website, view an e-mail message or click on a deceptive popup window. Many users click on the window in the mistaken belief that, for instance, it is an error report from their own PC or that it is an innocuous advertisement popup. In such cases, the malicious "supplier" may claim that the user "consented" to the download though he or she was completely unaware of having initiated a malicious software download.
- Exploits: these are pieces of malware that take advantage of a weakness in a web browser, e-mail client, Adobe Flash installation or operating system. They install themselves without any user intervention whatsoever. Many take advantage of older vulnerabilities in applications or operating systems that don’t have the latest updates installed. This is why it’s important to install updates promptly.
- Email attachments: infected attachments that arrive in spam emails can infect machines then send emails to everyone in the users address book. These spoofed email messages will contain some kind of enticing story to get you to follow a link to a malicious site or open an attachment which is actually the installer for the malware.
Unfortunately, if you are infected, the system will need to be cleaned. The do-it-yourselfer may be able to find real information on-line to accomplish this himself, but beware, the scammers are out in full force claiming to have the easy fix.
You get a telephone call from someone claiming to be with tech support from a well-known software company. Microsoft is a popular choice. The callers often have strong accents but use common names such as “Adam” or “Bill.” The scammers may know your name and other personal information, which they get from publicly available phone directories. They might even guess what computer operating system you’re using.
The caller tells you that your computer is sending error messages, and they’ve detected a virus on it. He says only a tech support employee can remove the virus, but first you need to grant him access to your machine. If you give the OK, the caller will run a scan of your files and actually point out how the virus has infected the computer. The scammers then offer to remove the virus…. for a fee. Of course, they need your credit card details first.
Here’s the twist. Those who allowed the caller remote access to their computers, whether they paid for the virus to be removed or not, reported difficulties with their computer afterwards, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Some said their computers would not turn on or certain programs/files were inaccessible. Some victims even reported taking their computers for repair, and the technicians confirmed software had been installed.
Here at PC Techs, we hear these same scenarios day after day. Here is our advise if you get a call from “Tech Support”
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
- Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from tech support.
- Ask for the caller’s information and report it to your local authorities or the FTC.
- If you did allow a caller to access your computer:
- Change the passwords for your computer, email and online banking/credit card accounts.
- Be sure to run a virus scan
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report if you shared personal and banking information with the scammer.
If your computer is acting strange, slow, or just different than it was before the remote access, consider having it fully cleaned by a professional. Better safe than sorry.