BRYANT, (KTHV) - Imagine surfing the web on your laptop at home when all of a sudden your computer is locked by the FBI. It happened to one Bryant couple, but the feds weren't the ones who wanted their money or information.
Hackers took over Jim and Sandy Pollnow's computer demanding hundreds of dollars before they would release it, even turning on the laptop's webcam to show their faces. It's a virus computer specialists said is spreading fast.
Jim Pollnow runs his business from his laptop at home but last week, his daily routine came to screeching halt.
"I was just working along on my computer here, and all of a sudden a screen popped up on me, and it said your computer has been blocked," described Pollnow.
What looked like a federal notice with the FBI logo claimed Pollnow had inappropriate activity on his laptop including child pornography and illegal downloading. The notice said his computer would be locked until he went to one of twelve stores listed, bought a money pack for $200 and entered the code into the computer.
Pollnow shut down his computer, but once he restarted it the same notice popped up again. This time, the notice came from homeland security making the same accusations except this time asking for a $400 money pack.
"My computer would be reformatted if I did not do this within 48 hours, and I thought if I was really in trouble, they wouldn't want to reformat my computer. They would want that as evidence," explained Pollnow.
After confirming with the FBI and local police that the block was a scam, Pollnow needed his laptop repaired.
"This year we feel is going to be one of the worst years ever for viruses," said Kelly Bergin, owner of Your Computer People in Bryant.
Bergin said Pollnow isn't the first victim to come into her store over the last few weeks, but others have actually fallen for the scam.
"It is a bad virus. It does take over your operating system. It does need to be brought into a computer shop as soon as you receive that notice. It can be fixed, and you haven't lost all your data," said Bergin.
"It took her, she said, about 8 hours to fix it because it was that bad, and they do this all the time," said Pollnow.
Pollnow has his computer back but hopes the virus that took it over doesn't return.
"It's scary, you know. What else can they do to me? Get in my bank account? Can they get into my personal stuff? My business? It's scary," said Pollnow.
Bergin explained that the virus likely made it onto Pollnow's computer through an email, though they can't tell which one. Experts believe the hackers are working from overseas, and Pollnow said law enforcement told him they can't be prosecuted since they are out of the U.S. Jurisdiction.