Indiana Man Gets ‘FBI Warning’ On His Smartphone After Downloading Child Porn, Turns Himself In

The warning wasn't real and was just a common computer virus. Oops.

an indiana man downloaded child porn
Porter County Jail

The warning wasn't real and was just a common computer virus. Oops.

An Indiana man turned himself into the police after getting an “FBI Warning” that locked up his smartphone after allegedly downloading child pornography. As it turns out, the “warning” was a computer virus scam – but it’s too late now.

As The Northwest Times reports, Joseph Hanvey, 22, got taken in by a pretty common computer scam. But rather getting taken for money, it cost him his freedom.

At about 2 a.m. last Wednesday, Hanvey allegedly downloaded or attempted to download a pornographic video containing one or more children. Instead, his phone locked up, his screen displaying only the words “FBI Warning.” He couldn’t get rid of the warning no matter how hard he tried, and even after turning off his phone and restarting it, it wouldn’t go away.

Via The Indianapolis Star, Valparaiso police Detective Jason Hamilton said that the warning was real and that the FBI was indeed on to him.

“Hanvey believed the disclaimer originated from the FBI and that they locked his phone for accessing child pornography.”

Thinking the jig was up, Hanvey drove around Valparaiso for two hours, looking for a police officer to talk to. Finally, he showed up at a police station, where he allegedly admitted to viewing “several” images of child pornography and saving them to his phone. And indeed, police recovered several images of child pornography allegedly contained on his phone.

the fbi didn't trace an indiana man's phone
  BigAlBaloo / Shutterstock

“Hanvey explained he has been viewing child pornography for approximately one year and he openly admitted to having a problem that he wants to address.”

As it turns out, though, the “FBI Warning” wasn’t from the FBI at all. Rather, it was the result of a computer virus that locked up his phone. Instead, it was what the computer industry calls “Ransomware” – that is, a bit of software that renders a person’s device useless until the victim pays an amount of money via Bitcoin, a credit card, gift cards, and such.

Ransomware isn’t just used against would-be child porn viewers. It’s basically everywhere, and although you can generally avoid it if you use precautions (such as not opening any files you’re not 100 percent certain about, and by not downloading child pornography), even whole towns have fallen victim. As Bleeping Computer reports, a ransomware attack shut down a whole Alaska town’s computer systems, to the point that village workers had to use typewriters for a week.

As for Hanvey, he’s been charged with felony possession of child pornography.