Help! Someone is holding my computer hostage

If you see a pop-up window, webpage, or email message warning you that your computer has been locked because of possible illegal activities, you might be a victim of a criminal extortion scam called ransomware.

Ransomware often masquerades as an official-looking warning from a well-known law enforcement agency, such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The aim of ransomware is to prevent you from using your computer until you pay a fee (the “ransom”). If you get an email message or a warning like this, do not follow the payment instructions. If you pay the ransom, the criminals probably won’t unlock your computer and might even install more viruses or steal your personal and financial information.


Example of ransomware

What to do if you think you’ve been a victim of ransomware

If you’ve already paid the scammers, you should contact your bank and your local authorities, such as the police. If you paid with a credit card, your bank may be able to block the transaction and return your money.

To detect and remove ransomware and other malicious software that might be installed on your computer, run a full-system scan with an appropriate, up-to-date, security solution. The following Microsoft products can detect and remove this threat:

More information about how to prevent and get rid of ransomware




About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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  1. Anonymous

    I think this article should also touch upon the importance of having one's data backed up, since ransomware may encrypt one's data into unrecoverable form, and removing the ransomware does not undo that encryption in cases such as the prevalent CryptoLocker ransomware.

  2. Anonymous

    Microsoft is holding my computer for ransom by asking for a phone # and not letting me into my email address that I've had for 15 years.

  3. Anonymous

    what about people who do not have a bank account or credit cards..

  4. Anonymous


  5. Anonymous

    I am always called by my home phone. I kept hanging up but they got my hard drive. I would not give any money. This time they claimed to be with Microsoft. The number called from is1-564-578-5465. I called it back and was told leave my name and Pam Fuller would ring me back. Of course I just hung up. I sure hope you check into this info. I tried to get more but he said he would call back. Oh they always had a accent, like India. Any help would be great.

  6. Anonymous

    When this happens to me, I try to close out all the Browsers. Most times cannot. Fix-  I Hit- Control/Alternate/Delete, when window opens- [Vista Home Premium] Select- Task manager and close all open programs- this defies any program from Nigeria, etc. doing any damage. This has been working for me over 7 years and my computer has never crashed. I do get into a mess occasionally, 5 times in 7 yrs. on the S-C-A-M-S. I type in all Text areas- You have made contact with an International Agent 007. We have Locked onto your IP#, an Officer will be contacting you in a matter of minutes. Please remain at this address. Thank you. I hit Send, it comes back incorrect info. Try again!  Yes! type in any txt area on any web page and Hit send- the mistake is being read by a Webmaster… The internet knows when you are good, doom if bad.

  7. Anonymous

    It just shows how insecure Microsoft products are.  Microsoft is only interested in make annoying operating systems like Windows 8.  Microsoft doesn't have what it take to make a secure and reliable product.

  8. Anonymous

    When this happens, (happened to me last year when my internet provider changed the security product

    they were using),  you can't access the computer at all to do anything, it is locked, very frustrating.  

    You have to keep trying to fool the virus by shutting down, restart and quickly try to click on whatever

    security software you are using to do a scan, or contact the internet provider they will do a scan and clean it.  

    That's what we finally did, they installed their new security software and got rid of the virus.

    We don't use our computer every day but when we logon we do a scan right away.

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