Toms River woman targeted by scam warns others

TOMS RIVER, N.J. - July 31, 2013

Kathryn Toth, 76, said she was on her laptop when it froze and the screen showed a picture of her, snapped by her webcam, with a frightening warning.

It showed the FBI logo with a message that federal investigators were investigating her for possessing illegal pornography and, to avoid arrest, she should pay a fine by money order or gift card.

There were even instructions on where and how to do it at the bottom of the screen.

"They wanted $1,400. When it came up last night they wanted $300," Toth said.

But, the message also raised a red flag.

"I can't see whether it's the federal government or our local governments sending you to Walmart of Kmart or Walgreens to get money," she said.

Luckily, Kathryn Toth didn't pay up because the messages are a scam called "Ransomware."

"When people see the FBI logged on, or they see Interpol over in Europe, they're panicking and they're thinking 'I've got to pay this to get my computer back or else I'm going to go to jail," said Det. Jim Hill of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Investigators at the county's High Tech Crimes Unit have received two dozen complaints since Tuesday about the scam, which can lock up your computer and make it unusable.

Ocean County has an enormous elderly population and law enforcement is concerned that senior citizens who may not be sophisticated computer users will be easy targets for the scam.

"Never, ever send money. Never feel like you have to act immediately. There's always time," said Al Della Fave of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. "Once the money's gone we're not going to be able to get it back. There's no way."

Detectives say it's next to impossible to locate the scammers overseas, so computer users have to be careful the way Kathryn Toth was.

Her advice?

"When they're asking for money, you know there's something not right."

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