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Computer Warning Seeking Money Is Scam, U.S. Courts Say

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A computer virus that locks up personal computers, and then issues a demand for money from the Department of Justice and the U.S. Courts, is a scam and has no link to the courts or other federal agencies. The virus locks up computers and warns users that they face criminal prosecution unless they pay a fee.

Victims should contact the Justice Department "ransomware hotline," which provides details about the scam and urges victims to file a federal complaint. The hotline number is (202) 353-0708.

According to the Justice Department hotline, "The message from your computer is a scam. Your computer is infected with a computer virus, created by criminals who are attempting to take your money. It is these criminals, and not the Department of Justice, that have locked your computer.”

The hotline informs callers that they must remove the virus to regain function of their computer, and urges callers to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, at www.ic3.gov.

To reduce the risk of being a victim, computer owners should keep all system software updated; use current anti-virus and anti-spyware software; deploy a local firewall; visit only trusted sites on the Internet; and not click on any link received via email from an unknown source.