Added: Sat. Jun 30, 2012 12:47pm
Mom called me yesterday. She was pretty worried. It seemed that when my brother tried to access the internet, an official-lookig notice popped up that said his computer is blocked from internet access by the FBI for dowloading child porn. It went on to cite the laws about internet child pornography and made sure to highlight that even if illegal porn is accidentally loaded by a virus, you may be found guilty. It was very detailed and officious, and had FBI graphics to put a convincing stamp on the pitch.
Then it offered a way out. If you go online and send $100 via a money transfer service within 72 hours, the FBI will not prosecute!
It took me seconds to find documentation that this is a scam...and what to do about it. But folks, the FBI is not in the extortion business. If you are in trouble with them, you can't pay them off to avoid prosecution. Think it through before falling for any scam. This one was impressive; so full of legal language that it looked legit. Fortunately, mom had a geek to call for verification.
Removing it was simple, I just told my mom to do a system restore to an earlier point and it worked. If it comes back, there are some free tools online to remove trojans. When I go up there next, I'll make sure the computer is clean.
The dangers of scams like this are varied. You may not be out just $100 bucks; you also risk providing your banking information to the scammers when you make the transfer. What's more, the virus is still on your computer, and it may have other components, including keylogging or spreading to your friends.
If you see anything like this on your computer, check it out before doing anything. There are several sites online that track computer scams, like http://www.snopes.com and http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams/
Remember. If it looks like a scam, it's probably a scam.