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

Also Known As: Wage Increase spam
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:

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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