BY BILL WOLCOTT firstname.lastname@example.org
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A city man had his computer frozen while he was searching the internet for protection against a virus. He is now being asked for a $300 ransom to have his system unlocked.
Peter Stutz went to the police Wednesday morning to report the probable scam. Upon learning of the report, Chief Larry Eggert said, “Don’t pay this. They still have control of the computer.”
Eggert had not heard of the scam, it was new to him, but said the public should be alerted.
Stutz, who lives on Nixon Place, was looking on the Internet to purchase anti-virus protection and was bouncing site to site. Unknowingly, he was lured to a malware platform and, all of a sudden, his computer froze. He was unable to shut down or go to different sites.
Stutz was locked on the site and was told to go to a local retail store and purchase a $300 MoneyPak. He was instructed to then input the 14-digit code found on the back of the card, and his computer would be freed.
”Don’t do that. Don’t go there. There was no phone number, no email address,” Stutz said, “it’s a virus scam and I want the public to be aware.”
According to the Better Business Bureau, once you’ve given the scammer that code, you’ve given them instant access to your computer, and the crooks can transfer the victim’s MoneyPak funds to their own prepaid cards.
The fraudsters make their site look official, even using the heading of the Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI. It warns the victim that the user may have violated Federal Law and faces fines and imprisonment. Trojan programs are designed to lock down computers and display false alerts, claiming to come from official agencies.
Eggert said that federal agencies like the FBI and Social Security don’t contact citizens by the Internet. “If you get it, just delete it,” he said. “It’s nonsense and probably a scam.”
Federal agencies use U.S. Mail, he said.
Where does that leave Stutz? He was advised to contact the police, but his computer is still frozen. He may have to hire a professional to clean up and reboot his computer. Stutz estimated that would cost $75 to $400.
Paying the $300 fee through MoneyPak would not ensure that more money wouldn’t be demanded. “It’s like a perfect crime,” Eggert said.
Computer users seeking protection against a virus are advised to use only reputable sites.