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Scam Central

Scammers hijack smartphones in new ransomware scam

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April 5, 2016 | 1,046 views | 1 comment

Are you the proud owner of a smartphone? As of 2015, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone. If you fall into this category, be warned of the latest twist on computer hacking: the “ransomware” scam that targets smartphones.

As of March 2016, the local Better Business Bureau has received reports of 123 cases of this scam throughout the country. This scam occurs when a hacker gains access to your mobile device -- or computer -- and sends a pop-up window that says your device has been compromised or something similar. Hackers use this technique because it freezes your device and demands you to pay a ransom to have the restriction removed.

Similarly, the “iScam” affected some iPhone users last year by sending an “iOS crashed” pop-up window. This scam locked iPhones and demanded money to fix the problem. News reports indicate that Apple has released a patch to fix the issue.

Unfortunately, it appears the hackers are back at it again. Your BBB recently received a report from an Austin consumer that was affected by a variation of the iOS scam. Like the iScam, this consumer received a malicious pop-up that appeared on their iPhone masquerading as an iOS virus alert, locking the browser and urging the user to call a number to resolve the issue. The consumer was told to pay $50 and did before realizing it was a scam.

BBB offers the following advice for protecting your smartphone against a ransomware scam:

Install anti-virus software. To remove ransomware off your computer, use your anti-virus software’s ransom tool, which should scan for and remove any ransomware attempts found on your computer. If you have an iPhone, turn on the anti-phishing feature for your Safari browser, ‘Fraudulent Website Warning,’ which is located in your phone’s settings. When turned on, you will be alerted if you visit a suspected phishing website. Also, enable the pop-up blocker feature in settings.

Keep your devices updated.Make sure all anti-virus software and firewall protection on your computer is up-to-date. Also, update your phone every time a new software update is available. Although it can be time consuming, it really is for your safety!

Be cautious when giving control of your device to a third party. Allowing a business to take remote control of your device can open you up to fraud or various malware. Be cautious of third-party apps or clone apps that look legitimate but are really designed to infect your device with malware and steal personal and financial information. Be sure to ask questions and don’t feel pressured into allowing a third party access to your phone.

Protect your personal information. Think twice before providing your credit card or financial information, especially if you are cold called by a company claiming to be affiliated with an anti-virus company. Also, try not to store personal information in your phone, such as credit card numbers, account log-ins or passwords.

Don’t click on suspicious-looking links. If you do receive a text from an unknown number, don’t click on any links or follow any instructions provided. If the text asks you to respond yes, no or stop, don’t respond as this only confirms to scammers that the phone is active and in use. You can forward suspicious texts to 7726, or “SPAM”. It’s then recommended that you delete the texts.

If you are hit by ransomware, try force quitting the browser. If that doesn’t work, put the phone in airplane mode, then clear the browser history and cookies. If it still doesn’t work, contact tech support for your device’s manufacturer directly.

Your Opinions and Comments

Elaine K.  
April 5 at 2:24pm
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