On Your Side Alert: Phone Ransomware

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Wipe out all your stored information or wipe out your bank account. That could be your choice if cyber crooks manage to get into your cell phone and hold it for ransom. And what's worse, you're probably inviting them in. If you have a smartphone, you could be the victim of Ransomware.

Crooks can lock your device and demand you pay a fee if you want to use it.  They usually try to get you to pay to unlock the device with a prepaid credit card, which is not traceable. Erin Mitten, with Cell Phone Technicians says the threat is no longer just restricted to computers. "Your phone can crash right in front of you and people naturally assume that is a virus, I need help," he says.

Mitten says phones are usually attacked when people unknowingly download malicious Apps like a phony anti-virus programs. "They use a series of fake scans, it looks likes they are scanning, "we've found a virus" and basically they are purposefully locking up your cell phone to make you purchase the antivirus program from them," he explains.

Mittens say this is all a scare tactic. He advises consumers not to buy or download anti-virus software for smartphones. He tell us phones can't get  viruses, only a bad code or a faulty program. "Look at the reviews before you download a program, you will see honest reviews of people saying it made my phone lock up 16 times, I had to do a hard reset," Mitten says.

He says that hard reset or restoring your phone to factory settings is the only way to unlock the device. You can find instructions in your owner's manual. Mitten says never send money or pay these criminals to have your phone unlocked. If you can't figure it out, take it to a professional or contact your phone carrier. "The risk is you are going to lose all your information on your phone because you have to do a hard reset to get it running again," he says.

For now, Mitten says the threat only applies to Android devices, Apple customers appear to be safe for now. Mitten recommends only downloading Apps from you phones official App store.

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