Computer virus locks your computer, demands payment



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Scammers disguised as the federal government are taking your computer hostage using a virus.

Channel 9's Racquel Asa was recently caught by the virus on her own computer.

The virus has been around for about a year now, but Asa found out it's taking on new forms and in some cases turning on your web camera.

The scammers disguise themselves as the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Justice and even the National Security Agency.

The problem with the virus is that no matter where you click, you can't get out of it. It blocks your screen, not allowing you to use the computer.

Restarting the computer won't help.

"They are holding your computer hostage for ransom," said Shawn Cable of Laptops Llus.

In one instance, the payment required to unlock a computer was as high as $300.

In some cases, the computer owner's picture is attached to the warning, because the hackers are able turn your computer's camera on, snap a photo and put it on the user's screen.

The virus message claims the user has pornographic images on the computer and failure to pay carries prison time up to 10 years.

"They are just trying to get you to go CVS, get yourself a little money card to send them some money and they're scaring you enough to do that," said Cable.

Authorities said the reason the scammers ask for money cards is because they're not traceable.

And they won't take credit card payments to unlock computers.

"Because they know you can dispute that on your credit card," said Cable.

That could create a paper trail that would lead investigators to those perpetrating the scam.

In some instances the virus can do more than just lock up your screen.

Stephen Brown, a teacher with the Polk County School District, found himself in that position.

Hundreds of pornographic images were found on his work computer, but his attorney said a virus was blame.

An investigation later revealed the images downloaded too quickly for one person to do in such a short amount of time.

Cable said offers a free virus software so users can unlock their computer screen and get back to their using their computer's screen and access the computer.

He warns that, like human viruses, computer viruses change too. He said a fix for one computer might not work on another

The Department of Justice and FBI have put out scam alerts because people are still being caught by the scam.

Cable suggests computer users avoid visiting unsecure websites, keep anti-virus software up-to-date and he said to be wary of sites offering free copies of pirated  movies.