A British young boy committed suicide after falling victim to a ransomware scam – one of the common varieties notifying the user that they were visiting illegal websites and demanding ransom (in this case £100) for the police to drop the prosecution.
The boy, Joseph Edwards, was a 17 year old A-grade student, but suffered from autism, which it is believed might have made him more susceptible to believing the scam he fell victim to was actually authentic. The unfortunate mother of the boy found him hanged in the hallway when she returned home in the evening.
“It seems that from examining the computer that there appeared to be some sort of scam on it,” said coroner Michael Burgess. “He had inadvertently clicked onto this and it seemed to be, according to the police, ‘a poor attempt at blackmail.’ It (his autism) may have meant he took it very seriously.”
The investigators believe that Joseph received an email that featured the Cheshire Police insignia and a demand for £100. Upon opening, the email apparently downloaded ransomware onto his computer. He was then presented with a message claiming that “indecent images had been found in Joseph’s possession and he would have to pay up to prevent the “police” taking things further,” according to the UK Telegraph.
Joseph’s mother has since started a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of internet scams. Although it’s not clear whether Joseph understood the implications of him hanging himself, it is believed that had he know the message was not real, he would still be among us.
It’s unfortunate that it took a death if a teenager to bring the issue of ransomware to the public’s eye, but it will certainly help other understand what these type of emails/malware are and how to respond to them.
Here are a few tips for staying safe and keeping cool is a similar situation happens to you, or your children:
- Police/FBI/Government and other law enforcement agencies will NEVER contact you by email on suspicion of illegal activities.
- If you do receive an email from the “police,” do not click on any links in it (the email might look authentic, but it never is)
- If your computer gets “locked” by some type of ransomware claiming you were caught conducting illegal activities on the Internet (or similar claims) DO NOT PANIC. Contact a specialist to have this looked at and corrected.
- NEVER pay the ransom – this will only motivate the cybercriminals to continue scamming more people
Share this article with family and friends to raise awareness of this type of scam – as you can see, it might save a life.