Unfortunately, this one is as terrible as it sounds. Ransomware is when scammers gain access to your computer and lock it (and all of your files) down completely unless you pay for an encryption key. Worse yet, according to Identity Theft Expert, John Sileo, scammers may not hold up their end of the deal if a ransom is paid.

With ransomware becoming more popular, we wanted to outline a few things you can do to protect your computer from this scam:

  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software that will scan both your computer’s hard drive and your email regularly.

  • Don’t get baited by phishing attempts. This means not clicking on suspicious links in your email. If the email is from someone you know, but the message seems out of character, you should consider calling that person to confirm the message is indeed from them and not a scammer.

  • Be wary of clicking on any pop-up advertisements and/or downloading any “free” software, games, etc. from any website.

  • Regularly back up all of your important files and pictures from your computer onto a portable hard drive.

For more tips on how you can reduce your risk of ransomware, check out this press release from the FBI.