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Do not trust the claims of "this is not a formal email" scam letters

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is the "this is not a formal email" scam letter?

"This is not a formal email" is the name of a scam campaign - a large-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. This campaign uses the sextortion scam model. In other words, the letter sender proclaims to have made an explicit, compromising video of the recipient - and threatens to publicize it unless they are paid.

It must be be emphasized that none of the information provided by these emails - is true. Most importantly, the recording does not actually exist. Hence, the "this is not a formal email" letters have to be ignored.

This is not a formal email spam campaign

The "this is not a formal email" scam letters (subject/title "Cooperation Offer"; may vary) make the false claims of having infected the recipients' devices with malware a few months prior. The imaginary malicious program is supposedly capable of making recordings via the devices' cameras and microphones, keylogging (recording key-strokes), self-updating (to avoid detection by anti-virus software), sending files, and providing access to the local networks.

The sender states to have obtained the recipients' browsing activity (visited URLs, viewed pages, etc.), contact lists, geolocation, and other vulnerable data. The crux of the scam is the bogus claim that a compromising video has been created from recordings of the recipients while they were watching adult content.

Allegedly, the fake trojan managed to infiltrate the devices through one such website. The scam emails instruct recipients to pay 1650 USD in Bitcoin cryptocurrency - to prevent the nonexistent video from being sent to their contacts.

The ransom has to be paid within 55 hours. The sender also threatens to publicize the recording online if they find out that recipients mentioned the email to anyone.

As mentioned in the introduction, "this is not a formal email" is a scam, and none of its threats can be carried out by the scammers. Therefore, it is strongly advised to disregard this email and others similar to it.

Threat Summary:
Name This Is Not A Formal Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Scam emails claim an explicit video of a sexual nature featuring the recipient has been obtained by the sender.
Ransom Amount 1650 USD in Bitcoin cryptocurrency
Cyber Criminal Cryptowallet Address 1Cg1X5xS6wkLqPksNcsVzm41Mf24PsrE1 (Bitcoin)
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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"I have to share bad news with you", "I monitored your device on the net for a long time", "Within 96 hours I'll ruin your prestige", "I am a professional programmer who specializes in hacking", and "I have got two not really pleasant news for you" are some examples of other sextortion spam campaigns.

Deceptive letters can have a wide variety of disguises and make likewise varied claims - in order to generate revenue at user expense. These emails can be used for different scams, phishing, and malware proliferation (e.g., trojan, ransomware, etc.).

Due to how widespread spam mail is, it is highly recommended to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam campaigns spread malware via infectious files distributed through them. Virulent files can be attached to the scam emails, and/or the letters can contain download links of such content.

These 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 the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection process (malware download/installation) is triggered.

For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. This process is automatic (jumpstarted when a document is opened) in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010.

Newer versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents immediate execution of macros. Instead, users are asked to enable editing/content (macro commands) and warned of the potential risks.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Suspect and irrelevant emails must not be opened, especially any attachments or links present in them. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

However, malicious software is not proliferated through spam campaigns exclusively. It is also distributed via untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting websites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, and other third-party downloaders), illegal activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.

Therefore, it is advised to only use official and verified download sources. Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers.

To ensure device/user safety, it is crucial to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept up-to-date. Furthermore, this software has to be used to run regular system scans and remove detected threats and issues.

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

Text presented in the "this is not a formal email" scam letter:

Subject: Cooperation Offer

 

Hey!

 

As you can see, this is not a formal email, and unfortunately, it does not mean anything good for you.
BUT do not despair, it is not critical. I am going to explain to you everything right now.

 

I have access to your electronic devices, which are the part of the local network you regularly use.
I have been tracking your activity for the last few months.

 

How did that happen?
You visited some hacked adult websites with Exploit, and your device was exposed to my malicious software (I bought it in Darknet from specialists in this field).
This is a very complex software, operating as Trojan Horse. It updates regularly, and your antivirus can not detect it.
The program has a keylogger; it can turn your camera and microphone on and off, send files and provide access to your local network.

 

It took me some time to get access to the information from other devices, and as of now,
I have all your contacts with conversations, info about your locations, what you like, your favourite websites, etc.

 

Just recently, I came up with an awesome idea to create the video where you cum in one part of the screen, while the video was simultaneously playing on another screen. That was fun!

 

Rest assured that I can easily send this video to all your contacts with a couple clicks, and I assume that you would like to prevent this scenario.

 

With that in mind, here is my proposal:
Transfer the amount equivalent to 1650 USD to my Bitcoin wallet, and I will forget about the entire thing. I will also delete all data and videos permanently.

 

In my opinion, this is a somewhat modest price for my work.
If you don't know how to use Bitcoins, search it in Bing or Google 'how can I purchase Bitcoins' or other stuff like that.

 

My Bitcoin wallet: 1Cg1X5xS6wkLqPksNcsVzm41Mf24PsrE1

 

You have 55 hours to reply and you should also bear the following in mind:
It makes no sense to reply me - the address has been generated automatically.
It makes no sense to complain either, since the letter along with my Bitcoin wallet cannot be tracked.
Everything has been orchestrated precisely.

 

If I ever detect that you mentioned anything about this letter to anyone - the video will be immediately shared, and your contacts will be the first to receive it.
Following that, the video will be posted on the web!

 

Remember! Time tracking will start as soon as you open this email, I am monitoring this!

 

Good luck and take it easy! It was just bad luck, next time please be careful.

Appearance of the "this is not a formal email" scam letter (GIF):

This is not a formal email scam letter appearance (GIF)

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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.

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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