A nasty virus is infecting local computers, prompting a police warning to stop owners from paying for an online fix.
A steady stream of upset victims called the RCMP Thursday, reporting they'd been locked out of their computer. They received pop-up messages saying police had frozen their computers to investigate a crime.
"By the end of the day yesterday, the Kelowna RCMP had received an estimated 250 plus complaints of ransomware and continue to receive more," said RCMP spokesman Const. Kris Clark. "One guy said he had two people in front of him and people were lining up behind him at the computer-repair shop."
In some cases, the pop-up provides a list of possible offences, while others may list a specific crime, such as child pornography or illegal music downloading. The message encourages victims to pay as much as $250 using a payment service to unlock their computers.
The warning messages claim to come from the RCMP or other government agencies. Police say sending money won't fix the problem, and you'll never get it back.
The messages, known as ransomware or scareware, are designed to shock victims so they send money right away. Your computer was likely infected by malware and you have to get it fixed by an expert, say police.
Most victims appear to have Windows-based computers.
Tips to protect yourself:
- Never click on a pop-up that claims your computer has a virus.
- Update your antivirus software often and scan your computer for viruses regularly.
- Don't click on links or attachments in emails sent to you by someone you don't know.
- Turn on your browser's pop-up blocking feature.
- Never download antivirus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an email.
- If you've received a ransomware/scareware message, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) to report it.
If you have been a victim of a fraud, contact your local RCMP detachment or police force of jurisdiction.
For more information and tips about scams and frauds affecting Canadians, go to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website at antifraudcentre.ca.