By Julian Bajkowski
They may not want the undivided attention of police, but they’ve got it.
Brazen crooks have digitally pilfered the official emblem of the Australian Federal Police in a bid to dupe unsuspecting internet users into parting with their financial details in an online con job where police appear to demand funds.
The AFP was yesterday forced issued a notice officially distancing itself from the rip-off which it said works by generating a pop-up screen that tell computer users that their machine has been locked and that a fee must be paid for it to be liberated.
The brand hijacking is an embarrassing development for the nation’s elite online crime fighters who have pushed to have powers alongside other internet regulators to shut down miscreant machines in Australia, even when the owner has no idea they have been hacked.
A notable feature of the new scam is that it appears to prey on the development of perceptions that police have the power to remotely enter and lock down machines until a fee is paid.
The scam appears to be the digital variation on illegal wheel clamping where unwitting car owners are tricked into parting with cash after being duped into thinking they have broken the law.
“The AFP does not solicit funds and this message is not associated with the AFP in any way,” police said in a statement. “The appearance of the ‘pop up’ message is due to a virus that is on the personal computer.”
The targeting of consumers through the hijacking and unauthorised appropriation of official artwork is a major headache for law enforcement and regulatory authorities because it has real potential to confuse the public as to which communications from the government are authentic and which are bogus.
Previously crooks had targeted government agencies and organisations that deal with financial matters including the Australian Taxation Office and the Reserve Bank of Australia.
Federal Police Manager of Cybercrime Operations, Commander Glen McEwen said the public “need to be aware of online scams and put appropriate measures in place to avoid getting caught up in them.”
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