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Do not fall for the AOL winner email scam

Also Known As: AOL Winner spam
Damage level: Medium

What is "AOL Winner Email Scam"?

This email scam delivers messages that appear to be emails from AOL, an online service provider company. The scammers behind the scheme attempt to trick unsuspecting recipients into providing various information. Typically, scammers misuse provided details to generate revenue in various ways.

Trusting these emails exposes recipients to risk of a number of problems. Therefore, ignore these emails.

AOL Winner Email Scam spam campaign

The email scam states that the recipient's email address was selected as a winner of $3,000,000.000. To claim the 'prize', the recipient must provide details such as name, surname, address, country, occupation, telephone number, age and gender by sending them to caldwellnorman@mail.com or calling the +905389132417 number.

In fact, whoever contacts these scammers are asked to provide further, sensitive information such as credit card details, credentials of personal accounts or other confidential details. This is not the only scam that is disguised as an email from a legitimate company (in this case, AOL).

Neither AOL nor any other company has anything to do with this scam, or similar scams of this type. Therefore, do not trust the emails and, more importantly, do not provide any information to the scammers behind them.

Threat Summary:
Name AOL Winner Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud.
Fake Claim Scammers behind this email claim that recipients have won $3,000,000.000
Disguise This email is disguised as a letter from AOL.
Scammer Phone Number +905389132417
Scammer Email Address caldwellnorman@mail.com
Symptoms Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of the computer.
Distribution methods Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Some examples of other other scams include "IFC Global Development Funding Program Email Scam", "TOYOTA LOTTERY ORGANIZATION" and "Google Winner". In most cases, scammers send these emails to extort various personal information that they can misuse to generate revenue.

Recipients who fall for such scams often become victims of identity theft, experience problems relating to privacy, browsing safety, suffer monetary loss, and so on. Cyber criminals also use spam campaigns/emails to proliferate malicious programs.

They send emails that contain a malicious attachment or a website link that downloads a malicious file - they hope that someone will open the file, which then infects the system. Some examples of malware proliferated via email include LokiBot, TrickBot, Emotet, AZORult and Adwind.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Typically, operating systems become infected through spam campaigns/emails when recipients open a malicious file that was attached to them, or they open a file that was downloaded via an included website link.

Examples of files that cyber criminals attach to their emails include PDF, Microsoft Office documents, executable files (.exe), JavaScript files, and archives such as ZIP, RAR. For example, when a recipient opens a malicious MS Office document with MS Office 2010 or a newer version, the document asks permission to enable editing (macros commands).

If allowed, it installs some malicious software. Older MS Office versions install malware through malicious documents automatically, since they do not include Protected View mode (which asks permission first). In any case, malicious attachments/files can infect computers only if users open (execute) them.

How to avoid installation of malware

Irrelevant emails that are received from suspicious, unknown addresses and contain website links and/or attachments should not be trusted. Opening the contents of these emails causes installation of malicious software. Files and programs should be downloaded only from official websites and via direct links.

Unofficial websites, third party downloaders (and installers), Peer-to-Peer networks (torrent clients, eMule), and other channels, sources of this kind should not be trusted or used. Cyber criminals often use them to host malware (malicious files). Update installed software via implemented functions/tools designed by official developers.

If software needs activation, use formal methods. It is illegal to activate licensed programs with 'cracking' (unofficial activation) tools, which are often designed to install malware. Scan the operating system for threats with reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software regularly and keep this software up to date.

If you have already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "AOL Winner Email Scam" email message:

Subject: CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Hello ******,

 
Attention: AOL Winner,

We are pleased to inform you that your electronic Email address has won the sum of  Three Million US Dollars ($3,000,000.00)USD from America online lottery award ©2020. AOL is also using this opportunity to congratulate you and say thank you for using the internet daily. However, no tickets were sold but all email addresses were assigned to different ticket numbers for representation and privacy.

You are required to provide the following and submit in this firm via the email address below for guide line and proper clarification.

Beneficiary's Surname:..........
Beneficiary's First Name:......
Beneficiary's Address:........
Beneficiary's Country...........
Beneficiary's Occupation ........
Beneficiary's Phone:................
Beneficiary's Age: ..............
Beneficiary's Gender: ............
Your Winning Verification Number: AOL009US/AWP-LAX1182/019

AOL Admin / email to: caldwellnorman@mail.com
+905389132417

NOTE : Keep your winning information very confidential until you have received your prize.

#770 Broadway New York,
NY 10003 USA,

Signed.
CEO: Tim Armstrong

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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.

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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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