Warning over 'garda fine' e-mail scam
IRISH computer users have been duped out of tens of thousands of euro by one of the most sophisticated computer virus scams ever developed.
The scam, dubbed the 'Garda Ukash' virus, is an Irish development of malicious software that has caused chaos across Europe this summer.
The scam revolves around a so-called Trojan virus in which computer users accidentally allow their own laptops and PCs to become infected by clicking on an apparently inoffensive e-mail or pop-up.
In the 'Garda Ukash' case, a pop-up appears on the computer screen warning the user that they have been illegally downloading material or viewing illegal images.
They are then warned to pay a €150 fine to avoid prosecution.
It also warns the computer has been 'frozen' until the fine is paid. In dozens of cases, panicked computer users have paid the fines. But they then discover their computer remains locked.
Worse still, they have unwittingly provided the scammers with their bank or credit card details. In several cases, consumers have suffered attempts by scammers to access further funds from their accounts.
Gardai have warned computer users that a national police force will never make that type of contact with an individual.
"An individual will never, ever receive this kind of contact from An Garda Siochana. Under no circumstances should anyone pay a fine in this manner," a garda source warned.
"If someone has paid such a fine, they need to contact local gardai and make a complaint."
The virus is so advanced it can detect the country where the computer is being used and download the appropriate police logo.
Victims of the scam admitted to gardai that they were convinced the pop-up, complete with garda logo, was genuine.
The scam is believed to have been developed in eastern Europe but caused mayhem when unleashed on computers last May across Germany, France and the UK. It has been causing chaos for Irish computer users since late June.
Gardai admitted that pursuing prosecutions will be difficult given that the scam is masterminded from eastern Europe.