There's an old scam, with a new twist. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team warned users today to ignore emails that say they're from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Division. The sender claims that the user's computer has been "suspended" and that they must pay a $300 fine to "unblock" it.
According to the Times-Standard, the Eureka Police Department issued a press release on Wednesday after receiving complaints about the scam.
Victims report the message, which appears to be a form of malware or a virus known as 'ransomware,' states 'The work of your computer has been suspended on the grounds of the violation of the law of the United States of America. This computer has been blocked,' has shown up on people's personal computers, according to an EPD press release. Logos from the Department of Homeland Security and major retailers such as Walmart are included. Alternate versions of the scam use the FBI's logo.
Presumably what happens is that the user receives an email demanding that they click on a link. Once the person clicks the link, malware is installed in the background. The newspaper said that the message remains locked on the screen and that users are unable to close it or access other programs. It instructs the user to pay $300 to unlock the screen using MoneyPak within 48 hours. The program says that once the MoneyPak code is entered into a box, the computer will be unblocked.
Obviously, anyone who encounters an email like this should just delete it and not click on any of the links or download any attachments. Last year, the same thing happened except that the sender claimed to be from the FBI. If you encounter the email, you are encouraged to report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.