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How to spot scam emails like "Microsoft Services Agreement Update"

Also Known As: Microsoft Services Agreement Update phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of scam is "Microsoft Services Agreement Update"?

While studying this email, we learned that it is written by scammers who aim to trick unsuspecting recipients into providing sensitive information. It is disguised as a letter from an email service provider and contains a link to a phishing website. This email should be marked as spam and deleted (ignored).

Microsoft Services Agreement Update scam email

More about the "Microsoft Services Agreement Update" scam email

Scammers behind this scam email claim that the recipient's email account will soon be suspended if the mailbox is not updated within 48 hours. The email includes the "RE-VALIDATE" hyperlink that opens a fake sign-in page (a phishing website). Scammers seek to trick recipients into entering login information on that page.

The phishing website included in this email is used to steal passwords. Those passwords can be used to steal email accounts and potentially other accounts. Stolen accounts can be used to access more personal information, send spam, send the same scam email to other people, and even deliver malware.

Threat Summary:
Name Microsoft Services Agreement Update Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Email account will soon be suspended.
Disguise Letter from an email service provider
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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Similar scam emails in general

Emails of this type are disguised mostly as letters from legitimate entities (e.g., companies, organizations, service providers, etc.). Scammers aim to obtain sensitive information directly via email or a phishing page. They seek to extract credit card details, login information (usernames/email addresses and passwords), ID card information, and other personal details.

Examples of similar emails are "NATURALISTS Email Scam", "Large File Send Email Scam", and "Suspension Notice Email Scam". Crooks can use email not only to extract information but also to trick recipients into infecting their computers.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Recipients infect computers via malicious email attachments or links (infected websites). Usually, threat actors attach malicious MS Office, PDF documents, archives containing malicious files, ISO files, JavaScript files, or executables.

Not all files infect computers immediately after they are opened. For instance, malicious MS Office documents can only infect computers if macros commands are enabled (editing or content is enabled).

How to avoid installation of malware?

Examine emails before clicking links or opening files that they have in them. Irrelevant emails from unknown/suspicious email addresses are often sent by threat actors - they contain malicious files or links.

Download software from official pages and legitimate (verified) stores only. Keep the operating system and installed programs updated. Never use unofficial tools to update or activate any programs. Do not trust advertisements on questionable web pages.

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 "Microsoft Services Agreement Update" email letter:

Subject: Your - Account will soon be suspended

Urgent Attention: Dear User

As part of our effort to improve your experience across our consumer services, we're updating the Microsoft Services Agreement.

We want to take this opportunity to notify you about this update.

Please click RE-VALIDATE to update your mailbox terms and conditions.

Failure to update your mailbox within 48hrs, our team will suspend your mailing address with immediate effect.

Server Maintenance Team

Phishing website used to steal login information:

microsoft services agreement update 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?

Scammers sent the same email letter to all recipients. Typically, scam emails like this one are not personal.

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

If you have entered your login information on the page provided in this email, change all passwords as soon as possible.

I have downloaded and opened a malicious file attached to an email, is my computer infected?

If you have opened a malicious executable file, your computer is probably already infected. In other cases (if the file you have opened was an MS Office, PDF document, archive file, or some other file), you may have avoided infecting your computer.

I have read the email but didn't open the attachment, is my computer infected?

No, it is safe to open emails without clicking links or opening attachments.

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

Yes, Combo Cleaner will remove malware from your computer (this application can detect almost all known malware). It is important to know that high-end malware usually hides deep in the system. Therefore, computers infected with malware of this kind must be scanned using a full scan.

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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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