Beware of FBI scam

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The warning flashes across the screen, “The FBI has locked down this computer because of illegal file sharing,” and owners panic.

But one Andalusia woman said she knew it for what it was as soon as she calmed down – an attempt to scam computer users out of not only money, but also their credit card information.

“As soon as the message came on the screen, the computer locked down,” Deb-orah Wind-ham said. “I knew it was scam because of the horrible misspellings. They had ‘sharing’ spelled ‘saharing,’ and other words wrong, too. You could only follow the prompts at the next button until you came to the part where you put in your credit card information.”

That’s when Windham sought the advice of a computer professional. Dwight Rainwater at AAA Computers in Andalusia said at least six others had brought in computers with similar issues.

“It scares you to death,” Rainwater said of the message. “This is what you do. Panic first. Then, calm down, because you know if the FBI was after you, you’d know it when they knocked on your door. They wouldn’t send a message on your computer.”

Rainwater said that was one variation of a popular computer scam seen by his business in recent months. Another, he said, is one that claims to offer an anti-virus software.

“It will tell you it found all these problems and then it asks to pay $300 with a credit card and they’ll fix it,” he said. “After that, you know what happens.”

Rainwater’s advice is avoid clicking on any pop-up screens selling products.

“Criminals are so smart; they can lockdown your computer, no matter where they are,” he said. “Know that it’s impossible for the average person to remove these viruses, so seek professional help.”

Jeff Mills, service manager at Walker Business Machines, agreed.

“Our technician has cleaned about four computers within the last few days because of it,” Mills said. “They tell people if you see the FBI logo come up, shut down your computer. It’s some kind of Trojan virus. Our advice is shut your computer down, unplug it and get it somewhere where so the virus can be removed.”

-Stephanie Nelson