BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A Bakersfield woman got scared when an alert on her computer told her she had broken the law and was facing prison time.
Marilyn Whipkey was on the internet a few days ago, when something went very wrong with her computer.
A warning came up and told her she had violated Federal Internet Law and could face fines and prison time.
"I was so scared and I was so nervous," said Whipkey. "I had watched a video off of YouTube and I thought maybe I did something wrong."
Whipkey said even though she knew she had done nothing wrong her imagination ran wild.
Then she carefully read the message and spotted several red flags, including the misspelling of 'cybercrime'.
Whipkey said she called the FBI and that's when she found out she was the victim of ransomware, a computer virus that demands a ransom be paid in order to regain the use of the computer.
This one disguised itself as the FBI and demanded $300.
Whipkey said she never paid the money.
"I thought, 'How can $300 make a criminal case go away,'" said Whipkey.
The FBI said this virus is usually found in the darker corners of the internet on websites where people don't want others to know they have been. Whipkey said she was looking at a grief website when her screen went blank.
She has regained partial use of her computer, but now it is getting nearly constant virus warnings and she said she doesn't have the money to get it professionally fixed.
But she said she wants others to know about this scam so they don't fall for it.
An FBI spokesperson responded to 23ABC with these links and helpful tips:
The current version indicates that IC3.gov is the originator of the message (http://www.ic3.gov/media/2012/121130.aspx) but the FBI was the originator of a similar scam as early as 2008: http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/internet-alert-scammers-sending-fake-fbi-e-mails-seeking-personal-information.
FBI E-Scams and Warnings
This page gives you a quick capture of the most popular scam types: http://www.ic3.gov/media/2012/121126.aspx.
Overall, an internet user must have up-to-date, legitimate antivirus/antispyware software installed and operating. Most reputable web sites will function in conjunction with the software and users should carefully weigh the risks of their internet traffic.
If an internet user’s computer becomes infected with ransomware, he or she should disconnect the computer from the internet and have a computer expert.