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How to recognize emails scams like the Office 365 phishing scam?

Also Known As: Office 365 email spam
Damage level: Medium

What is Office 365 email scam?

Phishing emails are used to trick recipients into providing personal information. Scammers behind them attempt to obtain credit card details, bank accounts numbers, social security numbers, login credentials, or other information. This phishing email is used to extract email login credentials via a fake Office 365 page.

Office 365 email scam

Office 365 phishing email in detail

Scammers try to trick recipients into believing that their Office 365 account password will expire on the day this email has been received and to update it via the provided website ("Keep Same Password" hyperlink). That website is designed to look like the official Office 365 login page.

Users are asked to sign in using their email (or username) and password. It is important to mention that the URL of the official Office 365 page is office[.]com and not officce3655[.]com as the URL of this fake Microsoft page used to steal login credentials.

Threat Summary:
Name Office 365 Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Email account password will expire today
Disguise Letter from Office 365 (Microsoft)
Related Domain officce3655[.]com
Detection Names officce3655[.]com Combo Cleaner (Phishing), ESET (Phishing), Fortinet (Phishing), G-Data (Phishing), Lionic (Phishing), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
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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Phishing emails in general

Most phishing emails are disguised as letters from legitimate entities. They contain a link designed to open a deceptive website where visitors are asked to enter personal information. More examples of similar emails are "New Mail Server System 4.0", "ING Bank", and "MijnOverheid". Emails also can be used to deliver malware.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Recipients infect computers through emails by opening malicious attachments or files downloaded via website links. Most cybercriminals send malicious PDF documents, Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript files, executable files, archive files.

Malicious MS Office documents cannot infect computers unless users enable macros commands (editing/ content) in them. Microsoft Office versions released before 2010 do not have the "Protected View" mode. Therefore, malicious documents opened with those versions infect computers without asking permission to enable macros commands.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Links, attachments in emails sent from suspicious, unknown senders should not be opened, especially if such emails are not relevant (for example, they mention invoices for products that have not been ordered. Files and programs should be downloaded from official websites and via direct links.

Installed programs have to be updated and activated using tools provided/designed by their official developers. A computer should be scanned for malware and other threats regularly. It is advisable to do it using a reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software.

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 Office 365 email scam:

Subject: ******** Expiration/Request=43

Office 365

********

Th⁠e Pa⁠s⁠sw⁠ord fo⁠r⁠ ********⁠ Wi⁠ll Ex⁠pi⁠re T⁠od⁠ay
u⁠se cu⁠rren⁠t pa⁠ssword to conti⁠nu⁠e for ********

Ke⁠e⁠p Sa⁠me⁠ Pa⁠ss⁠wor⁠d⁠

Fake Office 365 login page asking to enter email address (or username) and password:

office 365 email scam 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why did I receive this email?

Cybercriminals behind phishing scams send the exact same letter to thousands email addresses hoping that someone will fall for it. These emails are never personal.

I have provided my personal information when tricked by this email, what should I do?

If you have provided any account credentials (email addresses, usernames, passwords), change all passwords immediately. If you have provided other information like credit card details, ID card information, social security numbers, contact corresponding authorities as soon as possible.

What if an email sent by cybercriminals has a file attached to it, but I have not opened it. Is my computer infected?

No, opening emails is not harmful (it cannot cause damage). Recipients infect computers when they open attachments or links.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections that were present in the email attachment?

Yes, Combo Cleaner is capable of detecting and eliminating almost all known malware infections. High-end malware can hide deep in the operating system. Therefore, it is recommended to run a full system scan to detect hidden malware.

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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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