Cathy Lillie was surfing the web in search of creative designs for peyote beads when her tablet was suddenly in lockdown, courtesy of the "FBI."
“I had a panic attack,” Lillie says.
The longtime Publix employee says the FBI criminal alert seemed all too real but the accusations didn’t add up.
“Never have I seen these sites before,” she says.
The alert claimed to have a photograph of Lillie visiting adult and child porn sites as well as a terrorist site where she supposedly issued terrorist threats.
The list of the risqué sites were followed by three sexually explicit photographs and then a $300 fine to be paid via Money Pak Green Dot card.
Robbie Klein of REK computers says the “FBI Money Pak” virus has infiltrated PCs, Apple products, smartphones and tablets.
“I see a lot of people getting this virus when they are going to random websites or unknown websites,” Klein says.
Klein averages three to four “Money Pak” cases every week. The Orlando computer technician says anyone that pays the $300 fine in hopes of getting access to their device usually ends up paying over and over again.
Klein was able to repair Lillie’s 10.1 inch Samsung tablet in about 10 minutes.
“The system itself is fine,” Klein says. "You have to have someone that knows what they’re doing to remove it.”
Microsoft’s cybercrimes division chief Don Morrison, says the hackers usually are operating out of Russia or China but it can be anywhere in the world.
“It’s just another vector of attack,” he says.
“They keep the amounts small ($300) because the FBI won’t get involved if they’re small amounts," Morrison says. “When they cross the threshold of $1,000, the FBI starts becoming interested.”
The FBI’s Tampa office says it is aware of the scam. Agent Dave Couvertier tells Local 6 the agency would never issue threats or freeze a consumer’s device.
According to Couvertier, the best way to avoid the malware is to stay on sites you know and trust and have the latest anti-virus programs in place.