Avoid installing a trojan spread by the "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" email

Also Known As: HARASSMENT COMPLAINT email spam virus
Type: Trojan
Damage level: Severe

What is "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" email scam?

"HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" is an email scam designed to proliferate TrickBot trojan-type malicious software. This scam employs social engineering (scare tactics) to trick users into opening the attached file, consequently infecting the system with TrickBot. The user's personal details (such as name, workplace, etc.) are used in an attempt to give the impression of legitimacy.

The email is allegedly from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that the addressee (individual, to whom the letter is intended) is the subject in a filed sexual harassment complaint. Spam campaigns used to send scam/deceptive emails such as this often disguise the messages as "official", "important", and similar priority mail.

Note that they often contain spelling errors and other inconsistencies, which ease their identification as fraudulent mail. You are expressly advised against opening suspicious and/or irrelevant emails. Attachments and links found within them must never be opened, as they are the source of potential system infections.


The "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" scam typically targets employees of certain enterprise companies. They are chosen based on the probable workplace scenario (i.e., whether the personnel is large and/or mixed, etc.).

Throughout the message, the addressee's workplace title and/or name is mentioned (possibly, other personal details as well) so as to increase the scam's chances of succeeding by evoking an emotional response. Therefore, it is intended that the user open the attached document without much consideration.

The email states that a complaint of inappropriate behavior has been lodged against the addressee. Therefore, they are currently within the investigation for actions classed as sexual harassment involving a coworker. The infectious attachment is a Microsoft Word document disguised as the harassment grievance report.

The text within informs the recipient that the complaint has been reviewed by a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEO) representative. Furthermore, the EEO representative has decided to open an investigation on the case. The Word document contains malicious macro commands.

If this file is opened with an MS Word version released prior to 2010, it automatically begins downloading/installing TrickBot. If, however, the version is later, the document requests macro commands to be enabled (to allow editing). The infection then occurs after macros are enabled.

If you suspect that TrickBot (or similar malware) is already present on the device, use anti-virus/anti-spyware software to immediately remove it.

Threat Summary:
Name HARASSMENT COMPLAINT email spam virus
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax Cyber criminals claim to be representatives of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission informing the user of a harassment complaint.
Attachment(s) Microsoft Office document (-victim's name-Harassment grievance report [phone number].doc)
Detection Names BitDefender (Trojan.GenericKD.41991007), ESET-NOD32 (VBA/TrojanDownloader.Agent.QHL), Kaspersky (HEUR:Trojan-Downloader.MSOffice.Agent.), DrWeb (Exploit.Siggen.37835), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate the victim's computer and remain silent, and thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.
Payload TrickBot
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software 'cracks'.
Damage Stolen passwords and banking information, identity theft, the victim's computer added to a botnet.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Social engineering and scare tactics are often used in scam campaigns. They urge users to open dangerous attachments, web links and similar, for various nefarious purposes. For example, the attached files (or links leading to them) can be used to spread trojans, ransomware and other malware.

Cyber criminals attempt to disguise these deceptive emails as official and important mail. Telltale signs of these messages can be various spelling and grammatical errors, and other inconsistencies. For example, the "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" email scam contains misspelling of the word 'harassment'.

Additionally, some content does not match: the email uses the California state forms with a U.S. Federal agency logo.

Thousands of varied email scams are proliferated including, for example, Ministry of Justice Email VirusPlease Yourself Email Scam, and TOYOTA LOTTERY ORGANIZATION Email Scam to name a few. The TrickBot trojan, which is spread via the "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" scam, shares similarities with NymeriaFormBookAdwind, and many other malicious programs.

How did "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT email scam" infect my computer?

Deceptive/Scam emails infect systems through attached files. The attachments can be Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive (ZIP, RAR) and executable (.exe, .run) files, JavaScript, etc., however, they are not presented as email attachments. They can be hosted elsewhere and accessed through links listed in the messages.

When the dangerous files are run, executed or otherwise opened, they are triggered to initiate the process of downloading/installing malware. For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections via macro commands. They request users to enable macro commands. Once enabled, the infection process begins.

How to avoid installation of malware

Suspicious or irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially those received from unknown senders (addresses). Attached files (or web links leading to them) found in dubious mail should never be opened, as they are the source of potential system infections. Use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

Newer releases have "Protected View" mode, which prevents malicious documents from downloading/installing malware. Content should be downloaded only from official and verified download channels.

P2P sharing networks (BitTorrent, eMule, Gnutella, etc.), free file-hosting sites, third party downloaders and similar channels are untrusted and more likely to offer malicious content (disguised as and/or bundled with normal software). Program activation and updating should be done via functions/tools provided by legitimate developers.

You are advised against using illegal activation ("cracking") tools or third party updaters. It is imperative to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept up-to-date. Carry out regular system scans and immediately remove detected issues/threats.

If you have already opened the "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" email scam attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "HARASSMENT COMPLAINT" email attachment:


The completion and submission of complainantís form has initiated an intake interview with a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEO) representative. This is an official proof of a filed complaint. The EEO representative has determined that the complaint can be accepted for investigation.

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer 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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How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically.

To remove this malware we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows. If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup.

Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings". Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options". In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button.

In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":


manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs.

These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software.

To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

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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.

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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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