A computer virus is locking up computers in Richmond County and beyond and trying to scam people out of money.
The virus is called the FBI Green Dot MoneyPak Virus or the FBI ransomware scam and shows itself as a pop-up screen on the computer. The screen completely locks the computer down and tells the user that the computer has been locked for violating a federal law, usually related to child pornography.
The virus tries to scare computer users into paying a fine with a Green Dot MoneyPak debit card.
The Green Dot MoneyPak card is a prepaid debit card that can be reloaded with money as needed. The cards are sold at Walmart, Walgreens, CVS/pharmacy and many other locations.
The Walmart corporation has been notified of this scam and has released a statement with a screen shot of what the virus looks like.
The virus screen says, “This operating system is locked due to the violation of the federal law of the United States of America! (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8; Article 202; Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the U.S.A. provides for a deprivation of liberty for four to twelve years.) Following violations are detected: Your IP address was used to visit websites containing pornography, child pornography, zoophilia and child abuse. Your computer also contains video files with pornographic content, elements of violence and child pornography! Spam-messages with terrorist motives were also sent from your computer. This computer lock is aimed to stop your illegal activity. To unlock the computer you are obliged to pay a fine of $200. You have 72 hours to pay the fine, otherwise you will be arrested. You must pay the fine through MoneyPak: To pay the fine, you should enter the digits resulting code, which is located on the back of your MoneyPak, in the payment form and press OK (If you have several codes, enter them one after the other and press OK). If an error occurs, send the codes to address firstname.lastname@example.org,” the virus says.
The statement said that Walmart is not associated with this scam and advises victims of the virus to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, also know as IC3. “The IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C),” said Walmart.
Amanda Letchford, of Rockingham, got the virus screen on her computer Sunday morning on Jan. 18. She said she turned on her computer and noticed that it was running slow. A white screen came onto her computer followed by the black virus screen. Letchford said that at the top of the virus screen was a picture taken with her webcam, with her name and location underneath. “I kind of flipped out,” she said.
Letchford called her cousin, Virginia native Patsy Letchford, who rushed over to see what was wrong. Patsy looked at the screen. “The only clue that it wasn’t the FBI was that you had to pay money with a Green Dot card,” said Patsy.
The women got on the Internet using their phones and found out it was a virus.
“I have never had anything like this happen before. I was really panicking,” Amanda said.
Amanda took her computer to Todd’s Computer Sales and Service on Rockingham Road. Rob Arnette, computer technician for Todd’s, said that the virus has to be removed manually.
According to Arnette, it is hard to pinpoint the origin of a virus.
“When a virus gets into a computer it hides itself behind a file or a program,” he said. One of the ways to protect a computer from a virus is to install a virus protection program. Although no anti-virus program is 100 percent effective, Arenette does warn against Norton Anti-virus software and McAfee Anti-virus software because, “about 95 percent of computers with viruses have Norton and McAfee,” he said.
Green Dot also released a statement that said it is working with the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division to combat the virus.
“Consumers are encouraged to immediately report fraudulent activity to Green Dot by calling 1-800-GREENDOT (800-473-3636) so we can attempt to recover any funds that have not already been removed by a scammer and can continue working with law enforcement to identify the origin of these activities and these abuses,” Green Dot said.
Amanda said she wants to warn people about the virus and tell them to be careful. “Don’t go out and pay it. Think. If government wants you to pay something, they are going to want you to pay with a Visa or Mastercard. Not a Green Dot card,” she said.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.