RENO, Nev. - 48 years in prison is what Judy Schonlau thought she faced when a message from the federal government recently popped up on her computer.
"When I first opened it up, it startled me because it looked very legitimate. FBI Symbols, federal statutes, the whole thing…
It wasn't legitimate. it's the latest ploy overseas scammers are using to try and steal money.
"It's essentially fishing, you send out millions of email bait and you get one or two or three people who follow along with it and send money," said Deputy Greg Sawyer, a detective for the Northern Nevada cyber center.
Sawyer's been investigating this scam for several months.
"It has been named FBI Ransomeware and essentially it holds your computer hostage in exchange for you sending money to unknown persons and then they claim that they will unlock your computer," said Sawyer
The virus prevents normal use of the computer and says the user has been caught with child porn. The only way to avoid charges is by paying a several hundred dollar fine right away.
"We have probably seen about 50 or 60 computers come through with it on there," said Wyatt Soulan a Reno computer technician at The Computer Guys on California Avenue.
He says the virus has become more prevalent in recent months. You can have it removed for about 75 bucks, but its better to just avoid it in the first place.
"Staying away from shady place on the web, but also you want to have up to date anti-virus software, and don't open any emails that you don't recognize," said Soulan.
A rogue email is what tricked Judy Schonlau in the first place. Luckily though, she never gave up any money.
"Then when I scrolled down, that's when I realized it was a scam," said Schoula