RCMP warn of computer scam circulating the Okanagan

Penticton RCMP said they have received calls related to a computer scam that has been flooding the Okanagan.

RCMP Const. Kris Clark said messages that are appearing on computers that state they are from the RCMP or a government agency are a fraud.

Residents have reported being "locked out" of their computer and received a pop-up message stating that their computer has been frozen by the police for a criminal investigation. In some cases the pop-up provides a list of possible offences, while in other cases the pop-up may list a specific offence such as child pornography or illegal music downloading. The message then tells the recipients to pay $100 via a payment service provider so their computers can be unlocked.

The warning messages claim to come from the RCMP or other Canadian government agencies, but RCMP advise they are not coming from them and to not send any money.

Const. Clark said these types of messages are commonly known as ransomware or scareware and are designed to create such a shock and anxiety that victims respond by sending money quickly. RCMP said your computer will most likely not be unlocked if you pay the money and you will never get your money back. If you receive one of these messages it is an indicator that your system may have been infected with malware and you will need to take steps to address the problem.

While Penticton RCMP have fielded some calls related to this scam, Kelowna RCMP were swamped with calls on Thursday receiving around 250 complaints. Clark said if you have only received a ransomware/scareware message do not call the police. To report it you must call the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) to report it. As well you may require the services of a computer technician to have the malware removed.

"If you have been a victim or fraud, meaning that you paid money through the ransom ware pop-up, please contact your local RCMP detachment or police force of jurisdiction," said Clark.

Penticton RCMP Sgt. Rick Dellebuur said these types of scams come in various forms from email messages, computer malware to phone calls. He said the success of laying charges for these types of fraud is low.

"People are running these things out of who knows what country, out of a post office box and a phone number," said Dellebuur.

He said just remember the old adage you don't get something for nothing and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"I got a phone call the other day about winning a cruise, all of these things are scams. This is just another twist," said Dellebuur.

Tips to protect yourself:

-Never click on a pop up that claims your computer has a virus

-Update your anti-virus software often and scan your computer for viruses regularly

-Don’t click on links or attachments in emails sent to you by someone you don’t know

-Turn on your browser’s pop-up blocking feature

-Never download anti-virus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an email

-If you’ve received a ransomware/ careware message, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501) to report it. If you have been a victim of a fraud, contact your local RCMP detachment.

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