COMPUTER hackers have been targeting computer users in the town by using bogus e-mails from Cheshire Police as a way of infecting systems with ‘ransomware’.

Once activated the ransomware will then lock computer users from accessing personal information, including pictures, essays or work projects.

And when you try to log into the computer you will be met with a message asking you to effectively pay ransom money of $300 to get your documents back and a time limit in which to pay or they will wipe your data.

And one computer business in Latchford say they are seeing people every week who have been caught.

Craig Whittaker, managing director of Hexcel, on Wash Lane, said: “We are getting about five people a week coming through at our place.

“It does it by your IP address to find which area you are in and sends a link for you to click.

“The e-mail can say its from Cheshire Police or HMRC but its actually a cryptolocker.

“Once it has got in place we can’t do anything with it as it’s infected.

“This new type of ransomware infects the computer and then stealthily encrypts all your files and photos behind your back.

“It will change every file it finds in the office or home network even USB hard drives which you may be using to back up your PCs files.”

The computer messages will even sometimes use your webcam to add your picture to the e-mail from police to try and scare you into paying up.

Detective Sergeant Peter Kidd from the Economic Crime Unit said: “This scam is clearly concerning for the people and the use of the police authority logo makes it appear authentic to the general public. People will be aware that we no longer use this logo and I would urge them to spread the word about this scam so no one falls victim to it.”

It is estimated the scams have already netted criminals $250 million since its release last year.

The programme it uses can avoid detection from antivirus software as it is normally sent as a link in an e-mail rather than as an attachment.

Hexel has seen customers take up its own storage system in its company server and a programme which scans your e-mails before they are downloaded.

And the experts say the only way to protect yourself from being caught out is to watch what e-mails you might receive and make sure to back up any important documents you do not want to lose.