9OYS Consumer Alert
Scammers hold computers hostage, victims can fight back
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The scammers hold your computer files hostage and claim you’ll have to pay a ransom to get them back. It’s a 21st century threat 9 On Your Side investigated
. Now, victims are asking 9 On Your Side what can be done to stop the cyber thugs.
After you fall victim to the scam
, your computer turns into a digital mess. Viruses have infected your PC, and you might need professional help removing them.
“We get about 30 to 40 ‘ransomware’ jobs a month,” said Bill Arnoldi, owner of FireBall Computer Repair, referring to the scam and its variations.
Arnoldi said more and more Tucsonans are coming to him for help as the threat increases.
“The perpetrators are getting a lot more aggressive,” Arnoldi said. “They're just very organized and it's very wide scale.”
Arnoldi can stop the viruses. Police want you to turn to them to stop the culprits. But Lt. Kara Riley told 9 On Your Side the Oro Valley Police Department hasn't heard from any victims there.
“They feel like, 'Gosh, how could I have done that? How could I have been not smart enough to see this was a scam?'” the department spokeswoman said, referring to some victims.
But that scam is a crime -- fraud -- especially if the online thugs get your money.
Reporter Kevin Keen asked Riley, “These scammers -- who knows where they are. They could be in another state. They could be halfway around the world. Is there any chance of catching them?” “This is why it's important to file a police report,” she answered. “Because we as a local agency might not be able to make an arrest per se. But what we have access to all of the federal and international resources.”
“The Federal Trade Commission recently has received a lot of complaints,” Arnoldi said. “In October, they actually went after six companies -- all based in India -- that were perpetrating the scams.”
During that international crackdown, according to the Associated Press, federal regulators charged 14 firms and 17 people for impersonating companies like Microsoft and tricking people into thinking their computers were infected. A federal judge ordered a halt to six scams and froze their assets, the AP reported.
“Do arrests get made?,” Riley said. “Sometimes they do. But a lot of times what ends up happening is there scam per se get shuts down. That's the key.”