Rick Van Duyvendyk learned his computer system was hacked two weeks ago.
"It says that you cannot get on your computer and if you want to get at it again, you need to pay $5,000 to open it up,"said the owner of Dutch Growers Garden Centre in Saskatoon. "All of a sudden that screen popped up, we couldn't get into anything."
People are usually protected from malware or virus attacks on their computers, but Ransomware is a rapidly growing new scam.
"There's a message that pops up on your screen and asks you to pay a certain amount... they ask for money to unlock your computer," explained Cpl. Janie Perreault of the RCMP's Financial Crime section.
For Van Duyvendyk, that meant he was unable to access his inventory, payroll and other important information. His business was able to stay open because the cash registers run on a different server.
Dutch Growers hired a company to try and fix the problem. They were able to get rid of the virus, but could not figure out the password that would unlock the information, so the business is using its backed up files.
"I'm not paying $5,000, because that just enables them to do it more," Van Duyvendyk said.
There are different strategies used in this type of scam. One accuses the user of accessing a site with child pornography. The hope is that the victim will pay the ransom instead of going to police.
"If anything pops up on your computer requiring money, don't pay it," said Perrault, adding: "They never really do unlock your computer."
According to statistics from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, there were 400 Ransomware complaints in the first ten months of 2012. Since October, the number of complaints has quadrupled.
"It's certainly picking up a lot of speed," said Perreault.
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