DENVER (KUSA) - The FBI is warning computer users to watch out for a sophisticated scam that could literally hold your computer for ransom.
The scam accuses you of viewing child pornography and orders you to pay a fine to avoid federal prosecution.
It was realistic enough to fool Rob, a Denver man who sent a newstip to 9Wants to Know. Rob wanted his identity concealed.
The FBI child porn scam is widespread and could cost you hundreds of dollars. One minute you're on the computer, the next minute a screen pops up accusing you of looking at child pornography. It appears to come from the FBI, and even has a government email address.
"I mean my heart just dropped. And then the screen came back up again saying that my computer had been locked again by the FBI," Rob said.
The screen contained an alarming message accusing Rob of looking at illegal content.
"And one of them was child pornography. That really caught my attention and made me very nervous and anxious. I work as a health care worker and I'm around kids all the time. I really panicked at that point," Rob said.
The more he read, the more he worried.
"[It said] that was a federal violation and that I needed to pay a fine of $300 within 72 hours and if that wasn't a federal case would be opened against me," Rob said.
Rob bought a money pack and paid that $300, even though he knew he was innocent.
"I've never viewed child pornography. I was willing to pay any money to sort of like make it go away. I think because it's just so vile and such a terrible thing to be accused of," Rob said.
His laptop stayed locked on that screen for hours, even days after he paid the $300. That's when Rob realized he'd been scammed.
"If it was able to sort of like get one over me, based on my sensitivities, I think I would want other people to know about it," Rob said.
A virus known as "ransomware" infected Rob's laptop. It locks up your computer, effectively holding it hostage. Not only does it take your money, the virus also tries to steal your personal information.
"People should really be aware of just how elaborate these schemes can be," Rob said.
If this virus does infect your computer, try running a virus scan. If that doesn't work, you may have to take your computer in to have a professional clean it out.
To prevent this from happening to you, watch where you click. Going from link to link can often lead to trouble.
If you have fallen victim to this kind of scam, the FBI wants you to report it.
Click on: www.IC3.gov
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