North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is warning state residents about a computer virus/computer scam using a false security warning claiming to be from the FBI threatening imprisonment unless the user follows instructions and pays a demanded fine.
Stenehjem said “by using the name of a government agency and threatening imprisonment, the scam artists hope to intimidate the victim into sending money immediately. This is the worst kind of scam.”
Monday Barnes County law enforcement personnel said that they had not seen any reports of the scam from local residents.
The false warning appears on computer screens and says that the government has taken over the computer because it has been linked to illegal downloads of music, videos, pornography or other items. The user is told to buy a MoneyPak card and enter the card’s code number on the screen in order to unlock the computer.
The “warning” is part of a computer virus called the ransom virus that the user unknowingly downloaded. Once it is installed, the virus makes the computer unusable until it is removed, often requiring help from a professional.
Stenehjem said, “paying the supposed fine does not remove the virus or unlock the computer, it simply puts money in the pocket of the scam artist.
According to a release, federal authorities report the virus is fairly common and has been found on many popular sites offering free music, live wallpaper and video codes, and has also been found imbedded in what appear to be legitimate offers and links.
Parrell Grossman, director of the attorney general’s consumer protection division, said “scam artists like to use MoneyPak in their scams because once the have the number, they can get the money off the card instantly.”
Grossman offered several tips to avoid potentially expensive computer repairs:
*Install reputable antivirus software and frequently scan your computer.
*Make certain to use a password on wireless Internet connections. Without a password, anyone within range of the home can access information stored on the computer.
*If a computer is infected with the virus do not respond to the threat, but have the virus removed by a professional.