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Avoid losing your email account via fake "Wage Increase" email

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is "Wage Increase email scam"?

"Wage Increase email scam" is the name of a spam campaign - a mass-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The scam emails sent through this campaign - notify recipients of a change within the payment structure and a supposed wage increase.

The aim of this spam mail is to promote a phishing website, which targets email account log-in credentials (i.e., email addresses and corresponding passwords). The promoted site uses Google APIs - a legitimate service for improving web and app functionalities.

Wage Increase email spam campaign

"Wage Increase" scam email in detail

The fake "Wage Increase" emails (subject/title "Updated JULY Payment Structure (Final Post-Covid-19 listing) And Classified Company Docments"; may vary) claim that recipients' wages will increase. The Human Resources department will allegedly provide additional information.

It must be emphasized that all of the information provided by these letters - is false. Should users try to follow the instructions given by the scam emails, they will be redirected to the phishing website. This page requests users to sign in using their email account credentials.

As mentioned in the introduction, the promoted webpage is a phishing site - hence, any information entered into it is recorded and sent to its designers. Therefore, by trying to log in through this website - users can have their email accounts stolen.

Scammers constantly target emails as they are typically connected to (e.g., used to register other) accounts, platforms, and services. Hence, through stolen emails - access/control might be gained over content associated with them. Unauthorized access can be abused in various ways.

For example, communication accounts (e.g., emails, social media, social networking, messengers, etc.) can be used to ask contacts/friends/followers for loans - under the guise of the genuine owner. These platforms can also be used to spread malware by sharing malicious files or links.

Finance-related accounts (e.g., banking, online money transferring, digital wallets, etc.) can be used to make fraudulent transactions and/or online purchases. To summarize, by trusting the "Wage Increase" scam emails, users can experience severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.

If attempts to sign in through the phishing website have already been made, it is crucial to immediately change the compromised log-in credentials. Furthermore, it is recommended to contact the official support of all potentially exposed accounts and platforms.

Threat Summary:
Name Wage Increase Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Scam emails claim that recipients' wages will increase
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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Spam campaigns in general

"The BMW Lottery", "Mail Delivery Failure", "Anti-spam policy violation", and "UN Covid-19 stimulus package" are some examples of phishing spam campaigns. These scams target the log-in credentials of various accounts/platforms, as well as personally identifiable information.

However, these large-scale operations are not used exclusively for phishing and other scams, they are also employed to proliferate malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, etc.). Due to how common spam mail is, it is strongly advised to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam campaigns spread malware via infectious files distributed through them. These files can be attached to the emails, or the letters can contain download links of such files. Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g., archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, and so forth.

For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. This occurs the moment a document is opened in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010. Later versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. Instead, users can manually enable editing/content (i.e., macro commands), and they are warned of the risks.

How to avoid installation of malware?

To avoid infecting the device through spam mail, it is advised against opening suspicious and irrelevant emails - especially any attachments or links present in them. Furthermore, it is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

Malware is distributed via dubious download sources (e.g., unofficial/freeware sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), illegal activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates. Therefore, it is important to download from official/verified sources. Additionally, programs must be activated/updated using tools provided by genuine developers.

It is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed and kept updated. This software has to be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected threats. 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 "Wage Increase" scam email letter:

Subject: Updated JULY Payment Structure (Final Post-Covid-19 listing) And Classified Company Docments

 

Dear All,
   
As already announced, The year's Wage increase will start in June of 2021
and will be paid out for the first time by July, with recalculation as of June.

 

View salary-increase-sheet-June-2021.xls   

 

You will be informed of the details in advance by letter from the Human Resource department.

 

regards
******** Management

Screenshot of the phishing webpage promoted by the "Wage Increase" spam campaign:

Wage Increase scam email promoted phishing website

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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 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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