Scam and Fraud Center

Look Out! New malware threat attempts to extort money.

An insidious new threat is lurking on the Internet that accuses victims of viewing child pornography and other illegal content and then essentially holding their PC for ransom.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) – a partnership between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance – is now alerting Web users of malware that delivers ransomware named “Reveton.” The ransomware lures the victim to a drive-by download website, at which time the ransomware is installed on the user’s computer. Once installed, the computer freezes and a screen is displayed warning the user they have violated United States federal law. The message further declares the user’s IP address has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as visiting websites that feature child pornography and other illegal content.

To unlock the computer, the user is instructed to pay a fine to the U.S. Department of Justice using a prepaid money card service – hence the term “ransomware.” The geographic location of the user’s IP address determines what payment services are offered. In addition to the ransomware, the malware continues to operate on the compromised computer and can be used to commit online banking and credit card fraud.

This is an attempt to extort money with the additional possibility of the victim’s computer being used to participate in online bank fraud. If you have received this or something similar, follow these three simple steps:

  1. Do NOT follow payment instructions or provide personal information.
  2. Seek out a local computer expert to assist with removing the malware. Be aware that even if you  are able to unfreeze your computer on your own, the malware may still operate in the background. Certain types of malware have been known to capture personal information such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers through embedded keystroke logging programs.
  3. File a complaint at, and look for updates about the Reveton virus while on the website.

“It’s a fact of our modern life that there are individuals prowling the Internet right now looking to unleash nefarious schemes to steal your money,” said Bill Kowalski, Director of Operations for Rehmann’s Corporate Investigative Services division. “Being aware of these schemes is the first step on the road to protecting yourself.”

Kowalski recommended steps Web users can take to protect themselves:

  • Keep your computer’s anti-virus and malware/spyware software updated. If you don’t know whether or not it’s updated, there’s a chance it isn’t. Most anti-virus and malware/spyware software has a feature that updates it automatically; consider activating that setting.
  • Don’t panic. Scammers are counting on you to try to resolve the problem by following whatever instructions appear onscreen – instructions that usually require you to reach for your wallet. Before you do anything, though, stop, take a breath and carefully review what you’re seeing. If you have access to another computer in the house – or even a smartphone with Web connectivity – conduct a Web search for the symptoms the problematic PC is experiencing.
  • Periodically review tech news to make yourself aware of new threats, such as Reveton. Forewarned is forearmed.

“The Internet contains a lot of very useful information and entertainment, but like real life also has its share of risks,” Kowalski added. “Simply be aware of the risks and act accordingly and you’ll be fine.”

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