- The Washington Times - Monday, August 28, 2017

Cyber-scammers have started impersonating the IRS and FBI to try to take control of Americans’ computers and hold them hostage for ransom, the government said in an urgent alert Monday.

Scammers send an email with emblems of both the IRS and the FBI, claiming that under a new law, the FBI is taking over compliance investigations for offshore investments. The email then demands recipients click on a link to download a form.

The link, however, downloads ransomware that blocks access to a computer’s data until they pay money to the scammers.

“This is a new twist on an old scheme,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “People should stay vigilant against email scams that try to impersonate the IRS and other agencies that try to lure you into clicking a link or opening an attachment.”

He said the IRS would never make its first contact with a taxpayer through a threatening email or phone call, so anyone who gets those kinds of communications should be skeptical.

The IRS also urged people not to pay the ransom, saying it “further encourages the criminals, and frequently the scammers won’t provide the decryption key even after a ransom is paid.”

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