As technology progresses, computer users have seen an increase in online scams and other harmful viruses. To help avoid fraud and other crimes, local and nationwide law enforcement agencies are cracking down on online scams by spreading the word to computer users.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued reports of newly-developed Reveton ransomware, a malware virus known to download itself onto a computer when a user visits a compromised website. The virus typically takes advantage of vulnerabilities in web browsers or plug-ins on a computer.
According to the FBI website, the “drive-by” Reveton virus will lock a user’s computer, telling them they have violated federal law, and will demand that they pay a fine through a prepaid card service.
The website continues by saying that in 2011, the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s Crime Report said FBI-related scams were the most common type on the Internet.
Detective Donovan Young of the Rockingham Police Department said he has not heard any reports of the Reveton virus in Richmond County at this time, but added that online scams are no new occurrence.
“There is a problem with scams that are based on computers,” he said. “An example of that is the grandparent scam, where criminals use information gathered from social network sites like Facebook. They’ll study you and find out information about you — and basically become you.”
Young explained that once criminals have gathered enough information about a user, they will then contact that person’s grandparents or other vulnerable contacts by telephone or email.
“They’ll explain a situation and say they’re in jail, they need money, things like that. But they’ll tell them ‘don’t tell mom and dad.’ Grandparents are so sympathetic that (criminals will) prey on that,” he said.
In Richmond County, Young said he has seen reports of the grandparent scam twice in the past few months.
“We recently had someone scammed in that way,” he said. “It happened on a Friday afternoon and we were able to get the money back before Monday morning, but it was a rather large amount of money. Even if the scam isn’t occurring on the computer, it can occur based on info they’ve gleaned from the computer.”
In order to help prevent such scams, there are a few things users should remember.
“First of all, there’s no municipality, state, local or federal, that will have you pay a fine through PayPal or Green Dot in this case. You don’t have to pay a fine until you’re found guilty … No law enforcement agency is going to ever say they won’t prosecute if you pay a fine. The two don’t go hand in hand.”
Young added that this is true of all scams, not just those seen online. Residents should also keep an eye out for dangerous scams through the mail and phone calls.
For more information or to report a scam, contact Detective Young at 910-895-2468.
You may also file an online scam complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.