FBI San Juan
Special Agent Carlos Osorio
(787) 759-1550
March 17, 2016

FBI Warns the Public About Ransomware Internet Scam

Special Agent in Charge Douglas Leff of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) San Juan Division warns the public about the ransomware Internet scam.

In this scam, your computer screen freezes with a pop-up message—supposedly from the FBI or another federal agency—saying that because you violated some sort of federal law your computer will remain locked until you pay a fine; or, you get a pop-up message telling you your personal files have been encrypted and you have to pay to get the key needed decrypt them.

These scenarios are examples of ransomware scams, which involve a type of malware that infects computers and restricts users’ access to their files or threatens the permanent destruction of their information unless a ransom—anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars—is paid.

The FBI strongly encourages you to protect your computer from ransomware by:

  • To prevent the loss of essential files due to a ransomware infection, it is recommended that individuals and businesses always conduct regular system back-ups and store the backed-up data offline. Ransomware will encrypt any drive that is visible to the computer, including back-ups.
  • Filter out e-mails with .exe attachments and set your computer to show hidden file extensions. Ransomware is often delivered as a file with more than one file extension such as example.pdf.exe.
  • Make sure you have updated antivirus software on your computer.
  • Enable automated patches for your operating system and web browser.
  • Have strong passwords and don’t use the same passwords for everything.
  • Use a pop-up blocker.
  • Only download software—especially free software—from sites you know and trust (malware can also come in downloadable games, file-sharing programs, and customized toolbars).
  • Don’t open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if you think it looks safe. Instead, close out the e-mail and go to the organization’s website directly.

Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet.

The FBI—along with its federal, international, and private sector partners—will continue to combat ransomware and other cyber threats. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a ransomware scheme or other cyber fraud activity, please contact the FBI San Juan at 787-754-6000 or report it to the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.IC3.gov).