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Avoid getting scammed by "Dormant Account" phishing email

Also Known As: "Dormant Account" spam email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of email is "Dormant Account"?

The "Dormant Account" email is spam. It is presented as a letter from a bank auditing director regarding a dormant account of a late customer. The email suggests splitting the millions within it between the sender and recipient.

It must be emphasized that all the claims made by the "Dormant Account" letter are false. Typically, this scam model is used to trick recipients into disclosing private data and/or transferring their own money to the scammers.

Dormant Account email spam campaign

"Dormant Account" email scam overview

The spam email with the subject "[recipient's_email_address]: Fund Transfer $8.9 Million USD" (may vary) begins with an introduction from the sender – an "Auditing Director" from Bank of Ghana/ Apex Bank. Supposedly, during an "independent examination of financial information", the sender discovered a dormant account belonging to a late American contractor, who had been commissioned by Ghana Petroleum.

The letter then claims that the account's funds – 8,9 million USD – can be legally split 50/50 between the recipient and sender. Allegedly, the sender can make a legitimate transaction and transfer the funds to the recipient's bank account of choice.

As previously mentioned, this email is fake, and all its claims are false. Additionally, it must be emphasized that the existing entities referred to in this spam mail are not associated with this scam.

Typically, this scam model (offer to transfer significant or obscene funds into the victim's account) is used either for the purpose of stealing identities or obtaining money. The former is achieved by asking recipients to share private information, e.g., full name, address, sex, age, occupation, passport/ ID card photos or scans, telephone numbers, and so on.

The latter can be acquired using various techniques. Victims can be deceived into providing finance-related information to phishing websites or files (e.g., bank account log-in credentials into fake sign-in pages, credit card numbers into bogus transfer forms, etc.). Cyber criminals can use compromised financial information to make unauthorized transactions or online purchases.

Alternatively, the scammers can claim that the nonexistent funds cannot be transferred without the recipient paying a "small" fee. Criminals prefer difficult-to-trace methods, such as cryptocurrencies, gift cards, pre-paid vouchers, cash hidden in innocuous-looking packages and shipped, etc. By using these tactics, scammers ensure that they could not be persecuted and that victims could not return their funds.

In summary, by trusting an email like "Dormant Account" – users can experience severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.

If you have provided highly sensitive data to scammers – immediately contact the appropriate authorities. And if you believe that your accounts are at risk – change the passwords of those that are potentially exposed and inform their official support without delay.

Threat Summary:
Name "Dormant Account" spam email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Bank of Ghana auditing director offers to split $8.9 million from a dormant account between themselves and the email 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

"Help My Daughter", "Send Us Your Company Updated Bank Info", "Update Your Email Account", "Abandoned Funds" – are merely a few examples of emails used for phishing.

In addition to various scams, spam letters are used to proliferate malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, cryptominers, etc.). These emails can make a wide variety of claims to gain and subsequently abuse victims' trust.

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

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam campaigns proliferate malware by distributing malicious files as attachments or download links. These files can be in various formats, e.g., Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archives (RAR, ZIP, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), JavaScript, and so forth.

When an infectious file is executed, run, or otherwise opened – malware download/installation processes are triggered. For example, Microsoft Office documents infect devices by executing malicious macro commands.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We strongly recommend being vigilant with incoming emails and other messages. The attachments or links present in dubious/irrelevant mail must not be opened, as they can be malicious and cause infections. It is important to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010 since they have the "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic macro execution.

It is pertinent to mention that malware is not distributed exclusively through spam mail. Therefore, we advise downloading only from official and trustworthy sources.

Additionally, software must be activated and updated using functions/tools provided by genuine developers, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third-party updaters can contain malware.

Another recommendation is to be careful when browsing since fake and dangerous online content typically appears legitimate 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 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 "Dormant Account" spam email letter:

Subject: -: Fund Transfer $8.9 Million USD


Hello,
 
Happy New Year ,
 
I am the Auditing Director in the Bank of Ghana which is the Apex Bank of Ghana; I direct the auditing of accounting and financial data of various departments within the Bank of Ghana. During the Bank independent examination of financial information, I found out about this dormant account containing a contract balance fund $8.9 Million Dollars, The funds $8.9 Million dollars belongs to Late American Contractor Late Timothy Truax , he executed LNG pipeline contract for Ghana Petroleum commission , i will Tell you how the funds will be transferred to your bank account legitimately immediately i receive your response indicating your readiness to receive the funds and i want 50% of the funds after it is transferred to your bank account nominated by you.
Reply to private email address : jamesosei@gmx.com
 
Warm Regards
James Osei

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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. Cyber criminals distribute them in massive campaigns with the hopes that at least some of the thousands of recipients will fall for the scams.

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

If you have provided log-in credentials – change the passwords of all possibly compromised accounts and inform their official support without delay. And if the disclosed data was of a different personal nature (e.g., ID card details, passport scans/photos, credit card numbers, etc.) – immediately contact relevant authorities.

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

Devices are only infected when malicious files or links found in spam mail are opened/clicked.

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

Whether the system was compromised might depend on the opened file's format. When opened, executables (.exe, .run, etc.) start downloading/installing malware almost without fail. However, documents (.doc, .xls, .pdf, etc.) might need additional user interaction (e.g., enabling macro commands) to jumpstart infection processes.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner is designed to detect and remove threats. This includes malware removal, and Combo Cleaner can eliminate practically all known infections of this type. However, keep in mind that since sophisticated malware usually hides deep within systems – running a complete system scan is essential.

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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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