WELLINGTON, Fla. - A threatening warning is appearing on computers and scaring the users. One person even called police.
As an aspiring artist, Samantha Motsinger watches YouTube videos to learn new techniques. She recently picked up more lessons than she expected.
"It said that my computer was blocked by Homeland Security, and I'd have to pay to unblock it. It said I had copyrighted material on it, and child pornography," Samantha Motsinger.
Motsinger knew that wasn't true, but the official sounding warning made her panic.
"I was scared. I thought I had something wrong with my computer. I thought that I was going to go to jail or suffer something I didn't even know I did," Motsinger explained.
Motsinger's mother, Elizabeth Rogers, looked at the warning that locked the computer. She realized it was ransomware. It's a virus that threatens to hold your computer ransom until you pay up.
"You just don't think going to YouTube is going to be the downfall of your child's computer," Rogers explained.
There were several red flags that this was not legitimate. There is no phone number to contact Homeland Security.
Also, the government is not going to tell you to go to KMart or Walmart to buy a $300 MoneyPak card and pay the fine.
"It's just another form of stealing," Rogers said.
This family won't let the thieves steal their piece of mind. They went back online on another computer and got step by step instructions to remove the virus. They also downloaded the latest antivirus software on Motsinger's computer.
"I pretty much scan it everyday now because i'm paranoid," Motsinger explained.
So, what sites should you trust? Computer expert, Alan Crowetz, of Infostream said you don't need to pay a lot of money. Some of the best programs are free.
AVG and Avast offer free anti-virus protection and get good reviews.
To clean ransomware, malware, or any other virus you can try Malwarebytes , Spybot Search and Destroy , or Combofix (use caution because this program is advanced).
If you want to find out if you have a virus online, without installing any software, Infostream suggests Housecall from Trend Micro .
Infostream president, Alan Crowetz, said it takes more than one program to clean an infection and it's easier to prevent one than remove a virus. Before attempting any removal, backup your computer. While antivirus software is great at preventing an attack, it may not help you clean an infected computer.