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Do not trust fake Microsoft Teams emails notifying of unread messages

Also Known As: Microsoft Teams spam
Damage level: Medium

What is the fake "Microsoft Teams" email?

"Microsoft Teams email scam" refers to a spam campaign. This term defines a mass-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The scam messages distributed through this campaign claim that recipients have unread messages in their chat on Microsoft Teams.

Note that these messages are not notifications from the genuine Microsoft Teams platform. The purpose of the fake emails is to trick users into visiting a phishing/malicious website, which can result in severe problems.

Microsoft Teams email spam campaign

The "Microsoft Teams" scam emails inform recipients that their teammates have attempted to contact them through the platform in question. Specifically, a message has been sent in a chat on Microsoft Teams. To view it, the messages instruct recipients to click the "Reply, Go to conversatiion" button, however, this does not lead to the recipients' accounts or their chatrooms.

Spam campaigns like "Microsoft Teams" usually promote phishing sites. These web pages operate by recording information entered into them, thereby allowing scammers access to it. The websites are often disguised as sign-in pages of various accounts, platforms, or services (e.g., Microsoft Teams' log-in web page).

By trying to sign-in through such pages, users inadvertently reveal their log-in credentials (i.e., IDs, usernames, and passwords) and can have their accounts stolen by the scammers. Other information of interest targeted by phishing websites includes: names, addresses, emails, telephone numbers, banking account and credit card details, etc.

To summarize, by trusting the fake "Microsoft Teams" letters, users can experience system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft. If attempts to log-in through any phishing sites have already been made, immediately change the account passwords (and those of connected platforms).

Additionally, contact the official support of any potentially compromised accounts.

Threat Summary:
Name Microsoft Teams Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Emails claim recipients have unread Microsoft Teams messages.
Disguise Emails are presented as notifications from Microsoft Teams.
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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"INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF)", "Email Account Is Almost Full", "U.S Army Special Operations Command Consignment", and "TIM Email Scam" are some examples of other spam campaigns. These large-scale operations are used for various scams, phishing, and malware (e.g., trojan, ransomware, etc.) proliferation.

The deceptive emails are typically presented as "official", "urgent", "important", "priority", and similar. Regardless of what these messages offer, claim, request, or demand, their purpose is the same: to generate revenue for the scammers/cyber criminals behind them.

Due to the widespread nature of spam mail, you are strongly advised to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Systems are often infected via malicious files distributed through spam campaigns. These files can be attached and/or linked inside the emails. Infectious files can be in various formats (e.g. Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archive and executable files, JavaScript, etc.).

When these files are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection process (i.e. malware download/installation) is triggered. For example, Microsoft Office documents (e.g. "Invoice_24077.xlsb") cause infections by executing malicious macro commands.

In Microsoft Office versions released prior to 2010, malware download/installation begins when an infectious document is opened, however, newer versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. Instead, users are asked to enable macro commands (i.e., to enable editing/content) and hence infection processes can only be started by manually enabling macros.

How to avoid installation of malware

To avoid infecting the system with malware spread through spam mail, you are strongly advised not to open suspicious or irrelevant emails, especially those with any attachments or links present in them. Use official and verified download channels.

Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers, since illegal activation tools ("cracks") and third party updaters commonly proliferate malicious software.

To ensure device integrity and user safety, it is paramount to have reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware software installed and kept updated. Furthermore, use these programs to run regular system scans and to remove detected/potential threats.

Do not trust irrelevant emails that contain attachments or website links, especially if received from unknown, suspicious addresses.

Fake update tools infect systems by installing malicious programs rather than updates/fixes for installed software, or by exploiting bugs/flaws of outdated software that is installed on the computer.

Further encryption of any unaffected files can be prevented by uninstalling the ransomware, however, already compromised files remain encrypted even after removal of the rogue software and can only be recovered from a backup.

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 "Microsoft Teams" scam email message:

Subject: Status for ********* at February 8, 2021, 11:50:41 PM


Microsoft Teams

 

Hi, *********

 

Your teammates are trying to reach you in Microsoft  Teams

 

Someone sent a message in chat

 

Reply, Go to conversatiion

 

Regards, Microsoft Teams


[EXTERNAL EMAIL - THE ORIGIN OF THIS EMAIL IS OUTSIDE OF ********* USE CAUTION.]

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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.

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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