COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — “Ransomware is the issue of malware or a virus that takes over your device, your computer, your company’s network, and it basically shuts it down, and it locks up or encrypts your data and your information,” said Mike Moran, President of Affiliated Resource Group.

Moran said criminals use that to their advantage.

“They expect you to pay to get access to it. So, if you think about it, they’ve kidnapped your data,” Moran said. “And they want you to pay a ransom.”

As the president of a cybersecurity and IT firm, Moran said he’s seen a rise recently in ransomware attacks and fraudulent activity, targeting individual consumers and businesses.

“It’s easy for the bad guys,” said Moran. “We have so many things in our day-to-day lives that we’re worried about, it’s easy to slide one in on us. It’s easy to con us.”

Con artists commonly target victims, Moran said, through phishing messages.

“All of a sudden, you’re now entering your information and you’re giving them your credentials, and you’ve now been compromised,” Moran said.

If you get an unexpected or unfamiliar message, Moran said to slow down.

“Pause and stop and think about it for a second,” said Moran. “Don’t get caught up in the moment.”

Then, take a closer look.

“Look for the address. Who is it actually from?”

And if you think the email looks legitimate, but you’re not sure, contact the company or organization yourself.

“Call the number that you know works for the company, and verify before you commit to anything,” said Moran.

Moran also said more cyber criminals are sending text messages that contain malware or ransomware. And scammers continue to use the tried-and-true method of fraudulent phone calls. If you aren’t expecting a message or call, just don’t respond. If it’s legitimate or someone really needs to get ahold of you, they’ll try again or leave a voicemail.