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Avoid getting scammed by fake "Abandoned Funds" email

Also Known As: "Abandoned Funds" phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of email is "Abandoned Funds"?

After inspecting the "Abandoned Funds" email, we determined that it is spam. The fake sender is identified as a banker seeking to transfer funds from a deceased client and share them between themselves and the recipient.

This spam mail operates as a phishing scam aiming to obtain personally identifiable information; it may also request victims to pay for the transfer of the nonexistent funds. As the "Abandoned Funds" email is fake – it must be ignored and reported as spam.

Abandoned Funds email spam campaign

"Abandoned Funds" email scam overview

The email with the subject "URGENT REPLY NEEDED" (may vary) starts with an apology and emphasizes the urgency of the matter. The supposed sender – a banker – requests the recipient's assistance and cooperation in a project involving the transfer of abandoned funds belonging to a deceased customer.

The sum is written in numbers as 10 million and in words as 18 million USD. The amount will supposedly be split 55% for the sender and 45% for the recipient. If this is agreeable, the letter requests the following information to be provided: full name, address, occupation, country of origin, telephone number, and scan of an ID (e.g., passport, ID card, etc.) – for the purpose of creating a "Mutual Confidentiality Agreement".

As previously mentioned, this email is a scam. With the targeted information in their possession, the scammers may be able to steal the victim's identity.

Additionally, schemes of this ilk can ask for the recipient to provide their bank account details (e.g., to facilitate the transfer), which would then be used to make unauthorized transactions and/or online purchases from the victim's account. Cyber criminals can also send phishing website links/files to the victim and gather sensitive data in this manner (e.g., log-in credentials of online banking accounts, credit card numbers, etc.).

These scams often require that the victim pay some nebulous "fees" (e.g., transaction, storage, shipping, administration, etc.). Criminals favor difficult-to-trace methods for money transferring, such as cryptocurrencies, pre-paid vouchers, gift cards, or hidden in innocent-looking packages and shipped. This ensures that the scammers could not be traced and that the victims would be unable to recover the scammed funds.

To summarize, by trusting emails like "Abandoned Funds" – users can experience severe privacy issues, significant financial losses, and identity theft.

If you have already disclosed highly sensitive information to scammers (e.g., ID details, passport scans/photos, credit card numbers, etc.), we strongly advise you to contact the appropriate authorities without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name "Abandoned Funds" phishing email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Banker wishes to split abandoned funds between themselves and the recipient.
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 spam campaign examples

"Real Estate Investment", "Fund For God's Work", and "Next Of Kin" are just some examples of emails similar to "Abandoned Funds".

In addition to various scams, deceptive letters are also used to distribute trojans, ransomware, and other malware. Spam mail can be pretty basic and riddled with a variety of errors or competently crafted and practically identical to messages sent by genuine service providers, companies, authorities, or other entities.

Due to how widespread spam mail is, we highly recommend exercising caution with incoming emails, PMs/DMs, SMSes, and other messages.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam emails can contain infectious files as attachments or download links. The files can be archives (ZIP, RAR, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), Microsoft Office and PDF documents, JavaScript, and so on.

Once a virulent file is executed, run, or otherwise opened – the infection process (i.e., malware download/installation) is triggered. For example, Microsoft Office documents infect devices by executing malicious macro commands.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We advise being careful with incoming mail. The attachments and links found in dubious emails/messages must not be opened, as they can be malicious and cause system infections. It is essential to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010 since they have the "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic macro execution.

However, malware is not spread exclusively through spam mail. Therefore, we also recommend downloading only from official and trustworthy sources.

Furthermore, software must be activated and updated using legitimate functions/tools, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third-party updaters can contain malware.

Another recommendation is to be vigilant when browsing since fake and dangerous online content typically appears ordinary and harmless.

We must stress the importance of having a reputable anti-virus installed and kept up-to-date. Security programs must be used to run 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 "Abandoned Funds" spam email letter:

Subject: URGENT REPLY NEEDED


Dear Friend,


 How are you today, Please accept my sincere apologies if my email
does not meet your business or personal ethics, I really like to have
a good relationship with you, and I have a special reason why I
decided to contact you because of the urgency of my situation here.I
came across your e-mail contact prior to a private search while in
need of your assistance.


INTRODUCTION: Am Mr Robert Williams a Banker and in one way or the other was
hoping you will cooperate with me as a partner in a project of
transferring an abandoned fund of a late customer of my bank worth of


$10,000,000 (Eighteen Million Dollars US).


This will be disbursed or shared between the both of us in these
percentages, 55% for me and 45% for you. Contact me immediately if
that is alright with you so that we can enter in agreement before we
start


processing for the transfer of the funds. If you are satisfied with
this proposal, please provide the below details for the Mutual
Confidentiality Agreement:


1. Full Name and Address


2. Occupation and Country of Origin


3. Telephone Number

 

4. A scan copy of your identification


I wait for your response so that we can commence on this transaction
as soon as possible.


Regards,
Mr Robert Williams.

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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?

Spam emails are not personal. They are distributed in massive campaigns – hence, thousands of users receive identical messages.

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

If you have disclosed personally identifiable, finance-related, or other highly sensitive information – immediately contact the appropriate authorities. And if you've provided your account credentials – change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts and inform their official support without delay.

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

No, merely opening/reading an email will not result in a system infection. Malware download/installation processes are initiated when malicious attachments/links found in spam mail are opened/clicked.

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

If it was an executable (.exe, .run, etc.) – most likely, yes – your device was infected. However, documents (.doc, .xls, etc.) may need additional actions (e.g., enabling macro commands) to begin downloading/installing malware.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner is designed to detect and eliminate threats. It can remove nearly all known malware infections. Keep in mind that running a full system scan is paramount – since high-end malicious programs typically hide deep within systems.

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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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