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How to spot a ransomware scam


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How to spot a ransomware scam

Ransomware is particularly sneaky, and can infect your machine if you accidentally pick up malware from a website or download.

It operates in an alarming way, locking your PC out of the blue and accusing you of committing a crime, before demanding payment to make your system usable again.

See our guide on how to remove a ransomware virus

The signs of a ransomware scam

Below is some real example of a ransomware pop-up message. It is an alarming message to see flash up on your screen, since it freezes you out from accessing your PC and accuses you of committing serious crimes:





The software often claims to be from the FBI or local police, as in our pictures illustrated here. The message may have a veneer of authority, such as imagery of police logos, but there is nothing official about it.

The scams often claim to have found evidence of pornography on the computer, embarrassing targets into paying the stated fine.

In our examples here, a huge catalogue of alleged crimes has been listed. However, in reality, no one who had committed any of these crimes would be let off with a fine paid online.

The ransomware message typically demands a voucher from a payments company such as Ukash, because these do not leave a trace, unlike regular online bank transfers.

What you should do

  • You can avoid the scam as you would any malware, by keeping your security software up-to-date.
  • Never pay the ‘fine’, even if you cannot access your PC.
  • You will only be putting money into criminal pockets.
  • making the payment may stall not unlock your PC anyway.

If you have been affected, you can usually remove the ransomware from your system by running a recovery tool, such as the free download Norton Power Eraser. However, because your computer is locked, you may need to use another machine to download the program, then save it to a USB stick and run it on your computer after starting it up in Safe Mode.

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