Action 9 learns new online scam hijacks computers



DELTONA, Fla. - A new scam threatens to take your computer hostage unless you pay a fee to the FBI.

The warning suddenly filled 15-year-old Zach Murphy's computer screen and shut it down.

"I just froze in fear, and I had to go tell my mom," said Zach.

An official-looking FBI logo and an announcement saying "The computer has been locked for unauthorized cyber activity" that could be criminal appeared on the computer, freezing the screen. The message continued, "Pay a $200 fine to get your machine back."

Zach said he couldn't believe it.

"I was having anxiety attacks. I didn't know what I had done," he said.

"I'm not going to lie; It was scary," said Zach's mother, Jan Murphy.

But Murphy said she suspected a scam once it said she had to use a Green Dot MoneyPak card to pay.

"It just didn't seem right," she said.

Computer security experts said the same overseas criminal gangs that sent fake cashier's checks to cheat victims now use the virus to infect and shut down software and then demand a ransom to undo it.

Many use the FBI logo or those of other police agencies to suggest the criminal violations are real and that you need to be scared. Of course there are no charges, but the virus is real, Action 9 learned.

Two weeks later, Zach's computer started working again, but repair experts said it could still cause problems.

"Meantime it's still sitting there, so it will re-encrypt the computer again, and the message will pop up again and try to get money out of you again," said John Phillips with ProVision IT.

And when the computer is locked, the scammers could be accessing its passwords and bank accounts.

"They're getting away with it, and nothing's being done," said Zach.

To launch the virus, some scammers target websites like gambling sites.

Victims should have their computers wiped clean at local repair shops.