Law enforcement agencies around New Jersey say they have been hearing from an increasing number of residents who claim they have been locked out of their computers by the FBI. However, the Ocean County Prosecutors Office as well as the Ocean County Office of Consumer Affairs say the FBI has nothing to do with it. 

Instead it is a new scam originating from overseas, with very official looking pop-up windows.

"A pop-up that looks very credible has the FBI emblem telling people that they've committed some infraction. Usually either the threat is that you've been illegally downloading music or sometimes allegations of trafficking child pornography and then this pop-up then proceeds to give you directions that you must send money to the FBI through either a gift card or a mail money order," said Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

He said people opening up the pop-up windows have been infected with ransomware that locks their computers. He said the scammers are gaining access to victims by phishing through the Internet. "Websites, social media, e-mails are probably the largest way it gets into you. If folks were to see an e-mail from a sender you don't know, you have to delete it immediately and delete it without opening it."

Della Fave advised that computer users learn to recognize a secure website.

"If you see 'https' and the web page address that's a secure web site that uses encryption that protects your identity and your information. If you simply see 'http' with no 's' that's not secure."

He added users also commonly make themselves vulnerable when doing online banking.  "Make sure you stay with your computer the entire time you're doing the transaction.  Don't walk away and get distracted and do other things and leave that computer open. That whole time it's susceptible to being victimized and for phishers to get your information and in some cases, get your money and then the minute you're done with that transaction sign off that site completely."

Questions about Ransomware can be reported to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office by calling 732-929-2027.