A computer virus impersonating law enforcement and using scare tactics to scam people out of their money is attacking hundreds of computer users in the Central Okanagan.

The virus, which is a form of malware, displays a pop-up message telling users that the RCMP or other government agencies are investigating illegal computer activity. People are then urged to pay a fee to fix the problem.

The first examples of the scam in Canada surfaced earlier this year and is believed to be a variation of the Reveton Trojan which, once downloaded and activated, causes computers to seize and display a fraudulent message purporting to come from the RCMP, CSIS, FBI or some other law-enforcement agency.

Paying the fee doesn't free up the computer, which remains infected with malware. People whose computers are infected with the Trojan will need to find and remove the software or get a computer technician to assist them before the computer can resume operation.

A Trojan is software that often masquerades as a legitimate and useful or desired file or program.

Once downloaded onto a computer, it can attempt to take over the computer, steal information or replicate itself.

Its name is derived from the Trojan horse of Greek mythology, the "gift" from the Greeks to the Trojans, allowing Greek soldiers hiding in the horse to get inside the gates of Troy.

RCMP Const. Kris Clark says more than 250 people have contacted the Kelowna detachment about the scam.

"The switchboard is frustrated with the number of calls they've been fielding. Certainly been inundated with calls," said Clark.

Police are warning residents not to send money through the payment provider. Computer users should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud agency at 1-888-495-8501 and only call the RCMP if they have paid the scammers and are now victims of fraud.

The following are tips from the RCMP on how to protect yourself:
  • Never click on a pop up that claims your computer has a virus
  • Update your anti-virus software often and scan your computer for viruses regularly
  • Don’t click on links or attachments in e-mails sent to you by someone you don’t know
  • Turn on your browser’s pop-up blocking feature
  • Never download anti-virus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an e-mail