Police are investigating a number of reports of a computer scam known as ransomeware.
Online criminals are attempting to extort funds from unsuspecting computer users by impersonating the Metropolitan Police and other police forces.
Users visiting certain infected websites have downloaded malware which locks their computer, the force’s eCrime officer Karen Burch warned.
“The locked computer displays a screen message, purportedly from a police force, instructing users to pay a substantial fee through an online payment service. The payment is usually requested through services like Ukash.
The Police would never take such action — this is an attempted fraud. Any internet users who see such a message on their screens are advised not to pay out any monies or to hand over payment details.”
In some instances restarting their computer has succeeded in deleting the message. In others it maybe necessary to take the computer to a reputable computer repairer to get it repaired.
Attacks are made at random and can be targeted at any internet user.
All users of the internet should protect themselves by installing robust firewalls, anti-virus and anti spy-ware software and to treat every unsolicited message with suspicion. All requests that appear to come from an official institution should be verified over the phone.
More information and security advice can be seen on the actionfraud website www.actionfraud.org or telephone number 0300 123 2040.
Anyone who suspects they have been scammed is encouraged to contact police immediately.