FacebookTwitterLinkedIn

Do not trust scam emails that use Google Forms to steal private data

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Distribution: Moderate
Damage level: Medium

"Google Forms" email scam removal guide

What is the "Google Forms" scam email?

"Google Forms email scam" refers to a phishing spam campaign, which employs Google Forms to gather user data under false pretenses. The term "spam campaign" defines a mass-scale operation, during which thousands of scam emails are sent. Google Forms is a survey administration software, which is part of the Google Docs Editors suite. At the time of research, there were two variants of this phishing scam distributed through the "Google Forms" spam campaign. One email variant centers a sob story of a supposedly widowed cancer patient seeking to use the recipient's aid to distribute their wealth to charities, the other one - claims the recipient is dead and their bank funds will soon be transferred out of their accounts, unless proper action is taken. Both versions contain links to surveys on Google Forms, which request users to provide personal information. It must be emphasized that the deceptive letters proliferated via "Google Forms" spam campaign are scams and none of the information within them is true. Therefore, any data revealed (i.e. entered into the questionnaires) - will be exposed to the scammers behind this spam campaign.

Google Forms Email Scam email spam campaign

The first variant of the "Google Forms email scam" (subject "I need your urgent answer."; may vary) details a fake story of the supposed sender. The gist of the deceptive letter is that it is from a dying cancer patient, who has inherited an unspecified sum of money from her deceased husband. This nonexistent person requests the recipient to receive the funds and distribute them to charitable organizations, projects, etc. Allegedly, the sender is on her death bed and does not trust her family and close relatives to treat the inheritance as per her wishes. This scam email contains a button, which leads to a Google Forms survey, asking users to provide the following information about themselves: name, email, home address and phone number. The other variant's (subject "INFORMATION"; may vary) story is not particularly coherent. The letter is from Bank of America's "representative", which informs the recipient that a named US citizen has presented an affidavit (written statement confirmed by oath/affirmation, used for evidentiary purposes in court) confirming their (the recipient's) status as deceased. Furthermore, the recipient has supposedly signed a deed that is to divert over 26 million USD to the person, who presented the affidavit. Recipients are to respond immediately and provide their contact details for documentation purposes (likely in order to stop the fake fund transfer). The information requested is listed in the email as such: full name, country and city, contact address, mobile phone number, age, sex, and occupation(s). This letter likewise contains a button leading to a Google Forms questionnaire. However, unlike the survey promoted by the previous scam email version, this questionnaire is blank. It is very likely that this will be rectified by the scammers in the future and the survey will be fully functional. As mentioned in the introduction, all of the information provided by the "Google Forms email scam" letters is false. Their goal is to steal recipients' private data, which can then be used for a variety of heinous purposes. To summarize, by trusting these scam emails, users risk experiencing severe privacy issues, financial losses and even identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name Google Forms Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim One variant of the scam emails requests recipients to provide personal information - so that they could distribute certain funds for charitable purposes. The reason for the data gathering given by the other variant - is to prevent a person from taking possession of the recipients' funds.
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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Malwarebytes.
▼ Download Malwarebytes
To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Malwarebytes. 14 days free trial available.

"WhatsApp Email Scam", "Account Access Disabled", "Email Quarantine", "National Lottery" and "Last Warning: Upgrade your email to avoid Shutting Down" are some examples of other phishing spam campaigns. Emails of this type can target a broad range of information, ranging from users' personal data to the log-in credentials (i.e. IDs, usernames and passwords) of specific accounts. Deceptive letters are usually disguised in some manner, e.g. as "official", "important", "urgent", "priority" and so on. However, phishing is not the only use for this kind of mail, it is also used for other types of scams and even malware (e.g. trojan, ransomware, etc.) proliferation.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam mail infects systems via virulent files attached to and/or linked inside it (i.e. the letters contain download links). Infectious files can be in various formats, e.g. Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), JavaScript, and so forth. When these files are executed, run or otherwise opened - the infection process/chain (i.e. malware download/installation) is jumpstarted. For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. In Microsoft Office versions released before 2010 this process begins the moment a document is opened. However, versions released later have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. Instead, these versions request users to enable macro commands (i.e. to enable editing/content), whilst warning them of the potential risks. Hence, systems can only be infiltrated if macros are manually enabled.

How to avoid installation of malware?

To avoid malware spread through spam mail, it is strongly advised against opening suspicious and/or irrelevant emails - especially, any attachments or links found in them. It is also recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. However, spam campaigns are not the only method of proliferating malicious programs. Other common techniques include distribution via untrustworthy download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools and fake updaters. Therefore, it is important to always use official/verified download sources, as well as activate and update software with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To protect device integrity and use privacy, it is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware installed and kept up-to-date. These programs are to be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Malwarebytes for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in first variant of the "Google Forms" scam email:

Subject: I need your urgent answer.

 

Google Forms
Hello,
My name is Mrs. Johanna Abdiel, married to Dr. Basheer Abdiel originally from Iran.
He was a Cardiothoracic Surgeon for Twenty-Six years before he died in the year 2014.
We were married for years without a child. He died after a brief illness that lasted for some days. He left some funds with a bank in the UK with my name as his next of kin and I will appreciate your cooperation to use this money for humanitarian and Charity services. I was diagnosed with a cancer of the lungs in the year 2016, barely two years after the death of my husband. Ever since the diagnosis, I have been on and off in various cancer treatment centers, but I am now permanently confined to a hospital bed.
Recently my doctor made it clear that I no longer respond to medications, indicating that I have a short time to live due to the illness. Having known my condition, I decided to entrust this fund to your care, if you can judiciously utilize it to create a charitable project. I know the fact that I will not survive this illness and cannot do anything from this sick bed, but my quest to use the fund in this manner according to the desire of my late husband prompted me to contact you via this medium. And I cannot rely on family and closest relatives any more, as they did not show responsible behavior when I entrusted a reasonable amount to them to distribute during this pandemic, instead they shared it among them. Therefore, I sincerely request for your assistance, since my health presently is no longer promising, to accept this benevolence for the less privileged, to revamp their standard of living. Please, I need your sincere and urgent answer to know if you will be available for this service.
For security reasons please reply through this my private email: johanaab01@hotmail.com

 

Contact information


FILL OUT FORM


Create your own Google Forms

Appearance of the Google Forms survey promoted by this variant (GIF):

Google Forms survey promoted by the first variant of the scam email (GIF)

Screenshot of the second variant of the "Google Forms" scam email:

Google Forms email scam second variant

Text presented in this variant:

Subject: INFORMATION


Google Forms

 

Dear Friend

 

My name is Paul D. Donofrio from Bank of America, Mr. Jerome F. Karlz of united States of America just presented a sworn affidavit to us that you are dead and that you signed a deed agreement with him to divert your $26.1m.
Please reply urgently with your contact details for documentation to release your fund

 

1. Your full name:
2. Your Contact address
3. Your contact cell phone number:
4. Your age:
5. Your sex:
6. Your occupations:
7. Your country and city:

 

Yours Faithfully
Mr. Paul D. Donofrio
Chief Financier Officer
Bank of America

 

Untitled form

 

FILL OUT FORM

 

Create your own Google Forms

Screenshot of the incomplete Google Forms survey promoted by this variant:

Google Forms survey promoted by this variant of the scam email

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer skills. Malwarebytes is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
▼ DOWNLOAD Malwarebytes By downloading any software listed on this website you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Malwarebytes. 14 days free trial available.

Quick menu:

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 Malwarebytes 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 Malwarebytes for Windows.

Click to post a comment

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.

Our malware removal guides are free. However, if you want to support us you can send us a donation.

Removal Instructions in other languages
Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

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

QR Code
possible malware infections QR code
A QR code (Quick Response Code) is a machine-readable code which stores URLs and other information. This code can be read using a camera on a smartphone or a tablet. Scan this QR code to have an easy access removal guide of possible malware infections on your mobile device.
We Recommend:

Get rid of Windows malware infections today:

▼ REMOVE IT NOW
Download Malwarebytes

Platform: Windows

Editors' Rating for Malwarebytes:
Editors ratingOutstanding!

[Back to Top]

To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license for Malwarebytes. 14 days free trial available.