There’s a new wave of computer virus called “ransomware” infiltrating Florida consumers’ PCs and laptops and creating full screen alerts that appear to be issued by federal agencies including the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice.
In most cases the message claims that pornography has been “detected” on the computer in violation of a litany of federal statutes.
The screen message says you have 72 hours to pay a $300- $400 fine or a hard drive will be sent to the FBI with the pornography evidence.
29-year-old Jason Quhne says he was stunned when he saw the message because he “has nothing to hide.”
Quhne says he was shopping for cellphones when his laptop suddenly went black and a full screen alert from the Department of Justice complete with a 72-hour digital countdown appeared.
A red banner across the screen read: "System is running in restricted mode."
“As far as I know they could be watching us, they could be recording, I have no I idea what they are doing with my webcam,” he said.
When the virus took over, his camera was activated and the computer locked up.
Quhne called the number provided on the Justice.gov site posted on the screen. He says the man on the line had a thick accent and confirmed he was in northern India.
When asked why his number was linked to the Justice Department the man appeared to side-step the issue.
“It’s not from the Department of Justice the virus you got and most are having the same problem,” the man said.
The man said he was with the computer repair company, not the Department of Justice.
This is when the fee came in. For $189.95 he said he would walk Quhne through the steps to clear out the virus.
FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier says the ransomware virus has been around for a while.
"There are several versions of the scheme, but the bottom line is the same, to steal your money or information,” Couvertier said.
Robbie Kline of REK Computers in Orlando calls it “an epidemic.”
Kline says the virus is aggressive and usually takes a trained computer technician 45 minutes to complete one step in the process needed to eliminate the virus.
“All they (consumers) have to do is click on the link and it will automatically install the virus, it will bypass any anti-virus software that is on there," Kline said.
Agent Couvertier says consumers can go to IC3.gov for the latest scams and a platform for reporting related crimes.
The FBI also recommends getting a professional to remove the virus.