Over the summer, I wrote about the phony emails being sent out by thieves to get money and personal and financial information from people (see, July 18, “Don’t Become A Victim of An Online Fake Extortion Scam -FBI Alert”).  Unfortunately, not only are these scams increasing, they’re proving very profitable.

Nicole Perlroth recenty wrote an article in the New York Times about the increasingly sophisticated email messages the thieves are now using (“For PC Virus Victims, Pay or Else”; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/technology/ransomeware-is-expanding-in-the United-States.html).  It’s the same theme but now is being tailored to people based on their Internet addresses.  In her article, Ms. Perlroth reports that:

  • the messages still appear to be coming from the FBI or other domestic and/or international law enforcement agencies;
  • the messages still say that the computer owner has lost control of her computer due to visiting illegal websites; and
  • the messages still say that the only way the owner can regain control is by paying a huge fine.

The person fears the worse and pays the fine — forking over the dollars and sensitive personal information.  The thieves are, as Ms. Perlroth wrote, making more than $5 million a year.

Her article contains additional very helpful tips about securing your computer.  We all hope that we haven’t inadvertently visited a “bad site” but we also don’t know who might have captured our computer and sent us to one of those sites.  Read her article to help make your computer more secure — and that will help you keep tighter control over your personal and private information.