Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Give Us $300

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Citizen, if someone purporting to be "Homeland Security" pops up on your computer screen and says "Gimme $300," don't do it.

It will threaten you, of course:

"The work of your computer has been suspended on the grounds of the violation of the law of the United States of America."

And it will block your computer. Tell you how to pay that $300 fine in order to get unblocked (using what's called a MoneyPak code through a major retailer such as Kmart or Wal-Mart).

Resist. Think back to the early days of the Patriot Act when you strode righteously into the county library and checked out every book you thought might be deemed subversive, or when you drew nuclear power plant cooling towers on cocktail napkins then tried to claim they were just bawdy doodles. (H/T H.S.!) Harness that disobedience, drive it forth.

Plus, also, this is a scam.

It "appears to be a form of malware/virus known as 'ransomware,'" says the Eureka Police Department in a news release, and it's been hitting on locals recently. Notes the release:

Alternate versions of this same scam may use the FBI's logo. Anyone receiving this message should not enter a MoneyPak code or any other payment method into the screen.

If you get the virus, go into safe mode (reboot your computer into it; but dive under your desk, also, if you think that'll help), and clean it out. And the EPD suggests you file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). And those folks suggest you get professional help to remove the malware.

Also, right now, back up your computer. And update your anti-badstuff software.

Here's the release:

EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMENT
604 C Street
Eureka, CA  95501
Phone:  (707) 441-4060
FAX:  (707) 441-4334
Date:  3/20/13
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Subject:  EPD Issues Public Service Advisory Concerning Ransomware Computer Virus Scam

Contact:  Sergeant Steve Watson
    Front Desk  (707) 441-4060
    Office  (707) 441-4081
    Work Cell  (707) 601-5464

Prepared by:  Sergeant Watson
________________________________________
On 3/20/13, the Eureka Police Department received a report of a computer-related scam now affecting some local residents.  Victims report a pop-up message will appear on their personal computer.  The message is purportedly from the "Department of Homeland Security National Cyber Security Division."  The message, which appears to be a form of malware/virus known as "ransomware," states: "The work of your computer has been suspended on the grounds of the violation of the law of the United States of America."  It further declares, "This computer has been blocked."  
The message remains locked in the front of one's screen and the user is unable to close it or access other programs.  It essentially freezes the computer. The message instructs the user that to "unlock" the computer they are "obliged to pay a fine of $300.00."  It further states they must pay this fine through "MoneyPak" within 48 hours (Green Dot MoneyPak is available through Walmart, Kmart, Rite Aid and other major retailers).  If the fine has not been paid, it threatens the user will become the subject of criminal prosecution without the right to pay the fine.  The warning asserts once you pay the "fine" your computer will be unblocked. The "fine" is paid by entering your $300.00 MoneyPak code into a box on the pop-up warning screen and clicking ok.

The warning screen is very convincing with logos from Homeland Security as well as major retailers such as Walmart.  Walmart and the other retailersare not associated with this scam.  Alternate versions of this same scam may use the FBI's logo  
Anyone receiving this message should not enter a MoneyPak code or any other payment method into the screen.  Users should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.  The IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).
Additional information concerning this scam may be found at the following internet links.  
http://corporate.walmart.com/privacy-security/fraud-alerts/green-dot-moneypak-scam
http://www.ic3.gov/media/2012/121130.aspx

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Heidi Walters

Bio:
Heidi Walters worked as a staff writer at the North Coast Journal from 2005 to 2015.

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