HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount Email SPAM

Also Known As: HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount spam
Damage level: Severe

What is HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount?

First discovered by My Online Security, "HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount" is a spam campaign similar to You Have A Santander Secure Email. Cyber criminals employ this spam campaign to spread a trojan-type virus called TrickBot. The message states that the user has outstanding bills that have not been paid.

To see all details, the victim is encouraged to open an email attachment (MS Office document). Once opened, however, the malicious attachment downloads and installs TrickBot malware.

HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount malware

The email is presented as an invoice from HM Revenue and Customs department. It essentially states that thousands of pounds of taxes are outstanding and encourages the user to immediately open the attached file. This is a scam.

HM Revenue and Customs is a genuine UK Government department responsible for the collection of taxes and has nothing to do with this message or proliferating the TrickBot trojan. Cyber criminals continually register various email addresses and domains that contain names of legitimate companies and institutions.

This is done to trick gullible users into opening random email attachments and proliferate viruses. Developers use the "HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount" spam campaign to proliferate TrickBot, a high-risk trojan that hijacks web browsers and collects various logins/passwords.

Developers misuse recorded information to generate revenue (through identity theft, money transfers, and so on). Therefore, the presence of malware such as HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount can lead to significant financial loss and serious privacy issues. Unfortunately, discovering this malware manually is virtually impossible - developers concealing it effectively.

Despite this, most reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suites are capable of detecting and removing the TrickBot trojan. If you have already opened the "HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount" attachment, we strongly advise you to run a system scan and delete all detected threats.

Threat Summary:
Name HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount spam
Threat Type Trojan, Password stealing virus, Banking malware, Spyware
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate victim's computer and remain silent thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software cracks.
Damage Stolen banking information, passwords, identity theft, victim's computer added to a botnet.
Malware Removal (Windows)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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TrickBot shares many similarities with a number of other trojan-type viruses. The list of examples includes (but it is not limited to) FormBook, Adwind and Pony. Research shows that these are also distributed using spam campaigns. As with TrickBot, the listed trojans are also designed to gather various sensitive information.

In addition, trojans often track users' browsing activity and open "backdoors" for other high-risk viruses (for example, ransomware). This behavior poses a direct threat to your privacy and Internet browsing safety.

How did HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount infect my computer?

"HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount" spam emails contain malicious MS Office attachments presented as tax documents. After opening this attachment, users are immediately asked to enable macro commands. This allows the attachment to download and install malware (TrickBot).

Note that this will only work when using MS Office. Malicious attachments opened using other applications (capable of reading these formats) will not be able to execute rogue commands. The downloaded malware only works on the Windows Operating System and, thus, users who are running other platforms are safe.

How to avoid installation of malware?

The main reasons for computer infections are lack of knowledge and careless behavior. The key to safety is caution. Therefore, pay close attention when browsing the Internet. Think twice before opening email attachments.

Files that seem irrelevant or have been received from a suspicious/unrecognizable email addresses should never be opened - these emails should be deleted without reading. Be aware that 2010 and newer MS Office versions open downloaded documents in "Protected View", thereby preventing malware download/installation.

Therefore, using older versions is dangerous. Some trojans are distributed using the "bundling" method (stealth installation of rogue apps with regular software), and fake software updaters.

Therefore, be cautious when downloading, updating, and installing software. Select "Custom/Advanced" options, carefully analyze each download/installation step and opt-out of all additionally-included programs. We strongly recommend that you avoid using third party downloaders/installers, since developers monetize them by promoting PUPs.

Software should be downloaded from official sources only, using direct download links. The same applies to software updates. Always keep installed applications up-to-date, but use implemented functions or tools provided by the official developer only. Having a legitimate anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and running is also paramount.

If you have already opened the "HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "HM Revenue & Customs Outstanding Amount" email letter:

Subject: Important: Outstanding Amount
HM Revenue & Customs
Outstanding Amount £31,369.64
Date 26 June 2018
Our ref 2389890:00041273:002

You do not appear to have paid the full amount due as shown on the attached Statement of Liabilities.
Please follow this link for more details.
About this notice
If you agree the amount is due , then you need to pay in full now. Go to www.hmrc.gov.uk/payert/index.htm
It is possible that this E-mail has been received by you in error. If so, please note that it may contain confidential information, and we ask that you notify the author by replying to it, then delete it immediately, and take no further action as a result of receiving it. Although we take care by ensuring that any files attached to E-mails sent from our office have been checked with up-to-date virus detection software, you should carry out your own virus check before opening any attachment. We accept no liability for any loss or damage which may be caused by software viruses.
All content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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Quick menu:

Types of malicious emails:

Phishing email icon Phishing Emails

Most commonly, cybercriminals use deceptive emails to trick Internet users into giving away their sensitive private information, for example, login information for various online services, email accounts, or online banking information.

Such attacks are called phishing. In a phishing attack, cybercriminals usually send an email message with some popular service logo (for example, Microsoft, DHL, Amazon, Netflix), create urgency (wrong shipping address, expired password, etc.), and place a link which they hope their potential victims will click on.

After clicking the link presented in such email message, victims are redirected to a fake website that looks identical or extremely similar to the original one. Victims are then asked to enter their password, credit card details, or some other information that gets stolen by cybercriminals.

Email-virus icon Emails with Malicious Attachments

Another popular attack vector is email spam with malicious attachments that infect users' computers with malware. Malicious attachments usually carry trojans that are capable of stealing passwords, banking information, and other sensitive information.

In such attacks, cybercriminals' main goal is to trick their potential victims into opening an infected email attachment. To achieve this goal, email messages usually talk about recently received invoices, faxes, or voice messages.

If a potential victim falls for the lure and opens the attachment, their computers get infected, and cybercriminals can collect a lot of sensitive information.

While it's a more complicated method to steal personal information (spam filters and antivirus programs usually detect such attempts), if successful, cybercriminals can get a much wider array of data and can collect information for a long period of time.

Sextortion email icon Sextortion Emails

This is a type of phishing. In this case, users receive an email claiming that a cybercriminal could access the webcam of the potential victim and has a video recording of one's masturbation.

To get rid of the video, victims are asked to pay a ransom (usually using Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency). Nevertheless, all of these claims are false - users who receive such emails should ignore and delete them.

How to spot a malicious email?

While cyber criminals try to make their lure emails look trustworthy, here are some things that you should look for when trying to spot a phishing email:

  • Check the sender's ("from") email address: Hover your mouse over the "from" address and check if it's legitimate. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft, be sure to check if the email address is @microsoft.com and not something suspicious like @m1crosoft.com, @microsfot.com, @account-security-noreply.com, etc.
  • Check for generic greetings: If the greeting in the email is "Dear user", "Dear @youremail.com", "Dear valued customer", this should raise suspiciousness. Most commonly, companies call you by your name. Lack of this information could signal a phishing attempt.
  • Check the links in the email: Hover your mouse over the link presented in the email, if the link that appears seems suspicious, don't click it. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft and the link in the email shows that it will go to firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0... you shouldn't trust it. It's best not to click any links in the emails but to visit the company website that sent you the email in the first place.
  • Don't blindly trust email attachments: Most commonly, legitimate companies will ask you to log in to their website and to view any documents there; if you received an email with an attachment, it's a good idea to scan it with an antivirus application. Infected email attachments are a common attack vector used by cybercriminals.

To minimise the risk of opening phishing and malicious emails we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows

Example of a spam email:

Example of an email spam

What to do if you fell for an email scam?

  • If you clicked on a link in a phishing email and entered your password - be sure to change your password as soon as possible. Usually, cybercriminals collect stolen credentials and then sell them to other groups that use them for malicious purposes. If you change your password in a timely manner, there's a chance that criminals won't have enough time to do any damage.
  • If you entered your credit card information - contact your bank as soon as possible and explain the situation. There's a good chance that you will need to cancel your compromised credit card and get a new one.
  • If you see any signs of identity theft - you should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission. This institution will collect information about your situation and create a personal recovery plan.
  • If you opened a malicious attachment - your computer is probably infected, you should scan it with a reputable antivirus application. For this purpose, we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.
  • Help other Internet users - report phishing emails to Anti-Phishing Working Group, FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, National Fraud Information Center and U.S. Department of Justice.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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