News Briefs, police

Police: online extortion alert

Police are urging the public to watch out for a computer scam that can access bank accounts and lock a user out of their computer.

Police say incidents have been reported locally, in which individuals have had their bank accounts fraudulently accessed after having a virus installed on their computers. Users with an infected computer will commonly experience their computer being “Locked” or otherwise disabled, and will then encounter a message prompting them to call a number.

The number will put the user in touch with an individual who will either offer to clean the computer for a fee, or attempt to otherwise extort money out of the user. The user may be requested to provide bank account information, or to access their online bank account via the infected computer. The user’s bank account is then fraudulently accessed, and all funds are taken.

Users will sometimes have a sum of money deposited in their account, and then be threatened with legal action if they do not refund it by wire, or provide account information to make a refund. They have also been known to be requested to wire money, or send checks for the computer cleaning itself. A common theme has also been a request to go to Wal-Mart and wire funds. Users are sometimes then harassed from multiple phone numbers if they refuse to send the funds.

These scams come in many different varieties and are constantly changing. When in doubt, the user should never give out personal/bank account information over the phone or internet, or to an untrustworthy source, or from an infected computer. If the user is threatened with legal action over the phone, they should end the call and call the police. Users should also never access their online bank profile from a computer which appears to be infected or was recently infected with malicious software.

Should any of the above occur or if the user feels their identity has been compromised, they should immediately notify their financial institution, any lines of credit, and one of the main credit bureaus. You should also notify the police.

If you feel your computer has been affected by malicious software, seek out a reputable or local antivirus or general computer service yourself, never if you have been prompted to do so by an infected computer.

Reputable companies or creditors will not threaten a user over the phone regarding payment issues.

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