If you are like most people, you are pretty careful online, and never visit questionable or pornographic websites.
Then imagine receiving a notice from the FBI that your computer has been locked, because you've been surfing where you shouldn't. Is it real? Or a scam?
Screen Suddenly Locks Up
Jennifer Werner sat down at her PC a few days ago and couldn't believe what she was seeing: a web page she had never seen before had taken over her computer.
"I walked in and saw a screen up on the computer, and it had the FBI logo," she said, "and I thought someone in the house had done something wrong or by accident."
The FBI alert stated that she had visited an illegal website, and as a result was being locked out of her web access.
To unlock it, it told her to pay a $200 fine.
Werner said "they wanted money. They wanted a $200 Green Dot Money Pack card to unblock your computer."
Online Extortion, or "Ransomeware"
She got suspicious: Send the fine by reloadable debit card from a drugstore?
She realized then it was a new type of online extortion, a virus known as "ransomware." It is downloaded when you click on a questionable website or email.
In some cases it uses your webcam to take a picture of you and display it back to you: That's even more scary.
So Werner and her husband searched on their smartphones for a way to remove it, and found a number of webpages on Google for removing what's called the "FBI Green Dot Moneypack Virus."
"I hit the reboot button," Dan Werner explained. " I hit F12, went to the reboot screen, and followed instructions to do a self clean, a system restore."
If this happens to you, search on another computer or phone for the fix. Or call a computer repair shop.
Jennifer's just glad she didn't pay the ransom.
Bottom line: Assume any email or online notice from the government is a scam, especially if it doesn't include your name specifically in the notice.
The FBI, IRS, or other agencies will not e-mail you: They will write or show up with a knock on your door.
That way you don't waste your money.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Click on the region names in the map below to see news from that region.
Things To Do
INSIDE: View our list of events happening this week around the Valley.
RIGHT NOW: Top Stories
Jurors deliberating the sentence for Arizona inmate John McCluskey failed to reach a unanimous verdict, meaning the judge will sentence him to life in prison for murdering a retired Oklahoma couple.
IKEA is recalling millions of children's lamps following the death of a child who choked on the lamp's cord. Another child was injured.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said his office will begin segregating inmates who are military veterans in an effort to help them with programs designed for veterans.
A team investigating thousands of cases ignored by CPS has been working on getting the reports categorized by city so they can utilize the support of local law enforcement agencies.
Prosecutors say they will not file domestic violence charges against George Zimmerman after his girlfriend said in she did not want to pursue the case.
A Phoenix businessman accused of plotting to kill his wife over a contentious divorce has pleaded guilty to attempted kidnapping.