B. Grant McNuttA new ransomware scam is surfacing in emails throughout the country containing emblems of both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  According to a recent article from AARP, the email claims that the FBI is requiring the recipient to complete a questionnaire and return it within 10 days. A supposed tax regulation that took effect on June 21, 2017 is cited to fake legitimacy. The questionnaire link (Noted below as “here” in blue ink) downloads ransomware onto unsuspecting consumers’ computers and prevents them from accessing stored data on the device until they pay the money demanded by the scammers. Below is a copy of the email:

ransomeware email

Ransomware by definition is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.

What to Do If You’ve Received a Suspicious Email

It is important to remember that any official correspondence from a federal agency will come by U.S. mail – not by email, text message, social media post, or phone call. When receiving a suspicious email, remember the following:

  1. First and foremost don’t click on the links from unfamiliar sources. Even if you think you know the sender, be cautious about clicking on email links because they may actually being unknowingly forwarding ransomware or some other computer threats. When in doubt, delete it. Be especially wary of messages requiring you to act quickly, asking for personal information, or threatening you in any way.
  2. Use a reputable antivirus software and a firewall. Keep it updated and set to accept security patches, as they become available, to combat ransomware and viruses. You can also set your software to automatically run scans several times a week, if not daily. This includes not only your computer, but your mobile and other internet devices.
  3. Make sure to enable your pop-up blocker on your computer. Criminals regularly use pop-ups to spread malicious software. Preventing pop-ups is easier than making accidental clicks on or within them.
  4. Avoid free online offers for screen saver and games unless you download them from trusted websites
  5. Use strong authentication, requiring more than a username and password to access accounts, especially critical networks. This will help prevent access through stolen or hacked credentials. An example would be to require the particular site you are using to ask you a question to which only you would know the answer. This will add yet another level of protection. Furthermore, make your password long, strong and unique.
  6. Be sure to conduct regular backups of your computer and mobile systems.Systems can be restored in cases of ransomware and having current backup of all data speeds the recovery process.
  7. Please do not pay the ransom. If you do, experts say there’s no guarantee that scammers will provide the promised decryption key. Think about it. Why would they risk exposing themselves? Payment might instead incentivize those or other cyber crooks to target your device for future attacks to keep the money coming. Instead, report any ransomware attempt or attack to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) ic3.gov and forward any IRS-themed scams to www.phishing@irs.com. Then have a computer expert restore your computer. It will be loads cheaper.

If you have fallen for one of these scams and have found having a financial hardship therefrom or if you haven’t but are simply struggling to pay credit cards, medical bills or personal loans, not to mention your mortgage and vehicle loans please call one of our conveniently located offices at Bond & Botes first and set up a private consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

We will analyze your situation and help you make the best decision possible to help you navigate your financial problems.

Grant McNutt
Written by Grant McNutt

Grant McNutt is a Managing Attorney at the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Florence and Haleyville, Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama, and a Juris Doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law. He has been practicing Consumer Bankruptcy Law since 1999. Read his full bio here.

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