Families have computers confiscated for weeks after likely hack

Two families living in a single building in Latvia have had their three computers held for weeks after their IP address was found to be linked to fraudulent online purchases, reported LTV's De Facto investigative show June 10.

When police arrived at their house in Jūrmala in the early hours of a Saturday, inhabitants including two families had their computers and paraphernalia like USB sticks and a router confiscated, as their IP address was used to buy furniture worth €2,000 online using US-issued credit card data. 

Investigators soon returned some of what they had confiscated but three computers are still being held for weeks, with police possibly suspecting they are infected. 

Dmitrijs Homenko, the head of Latvia's cyber crime unit of the State Police, told LTV that six addresses were searched in connection to the crime.

Gita Tamaša-Blekte told that her son was particularly interesting to the police, who had told her her son had "carried out a crime". Her son Mārtiņš Toms said, "They all entered the room and asked me, do you know what you have done?"

Police nevertheless deny the exchanges took place as described. They also say there was enough reason to search the computers. 

"Before searching...it's impossible to say whether [a computer] was used remotely, or if there's a hack, or the person is involved in crime," said Homenko. 

Mārtiņš Toms lost his homework, which was stored on the computer, while his mother had spreadsheets she needed for work. They could have asked the police for permission to access files, but the residents insist they weren't told their rights. 

Now they must wait for their computers to be checked, which may take up to a year and a half; the police can keep their property for as long as they want. An initiative has been started at the Manbalss.lv public initiative portal to limit this period. 

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