- It's something that won't go away. There's a tricky new Internet scam making its rounds. This one could cost you at least $200.
A panic inducing warning from the FBI.
"The operating system is locked due to the violation of a federal law of the United States of America," says Computer Repair Owner Jill Friday.
Customers started bringing their locked-down computers in with this warning about two months ago, and there's no sign of it slowing down.
"Ten since Thursday last week... in total there's been about 40," says Friday.
When you turn on the computer the warning message appears claiming to be from the FBI, and your computer is locked. They want you to pay a $200 fine. What scares people is what it says they found on your computer.
"The following violations were detected: your IP address was used to visit websites containing pornography, child pornography, elements of violence in child pornography, spam messages with terrorist motives," says Friday.
Friday says since the message scares people, they don't realize right away that if the FBI actually found those things on your computer, you'd be in jail. They wouldn't just ask you to pay a fine and let you be on your way.
"They do their searches on the internet, sometimes they go to sites they probably shouldn't have gone to. So when this pops up after they do a reboot, I mean it does look totally official, they panic and they figure, I pay the money, I won't be in trouble," says Friday.
The warning message says you have 72 hours to buy a pre-paid credit card and enter the number or you'll be arrested.
"The last gentleman that just came to pick up his computer says he swore up and down when he purchased a computer that he would never be scammed by anything on the internet," says Friday.
There is a silver lining if you fall for this. A few people did pay the money, but they kept the receipt and were able to get their money back from the pre-paid credit card company.
The other good thing is this doesn't destroy your computer. A shop like Friday's can unlock it for about $35.
The FBI warns people that they'll never contact you electronically if you're in trouble, or ask you to pay them money on the internet