How to spot fake letters like "Email Access Is Set To Expire"

Also Known As: Email Access Is Set To Expire phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of email is "Email Access Is Set To Expire"?

After examining this email, our team has determined that it is a phishing attempt disguised as a message from an email service provider, with the scammers claiming to be the Microsoft team. The intention of the scammers behind this letter is to entice unaware recipients into accessing the fraudulent website and disclosing their personal details.

Email Access Is Set To Expire email spam campaign

More about the "Email Access Is Set To Expire" scam email

The phishing email is designed to look like a message from a legitimate email service provider. It warns recipients that their email access is set to expire on the specified date and that they have only 72 hours left to update their "secure" code for the email account.

The email includes a hyperlink (the "KEEP CURRENT PASSW0RD" button) that leads to a page where recipients are supposed to update their accounts. The message also claims that failure to update will result in Email Service Interruption (ESI), which is supposed to alarm recipients into taking action.

The email appears to be sent from "The Microsoft Team" to give the message an air of legitimacy. However, it is a phishing email, with scammers behind it trying to trick recipients into disclosing their personal information on a fake website.

The provided phishing page mimics the appearance of a genuine page tailored to match the email service provider used by each recipient. For example, if a recipient uses Gmail, the phishing page will display a counterfeit Gmail login page.

Scammers behind the phishing page aim to steal email addresses and passwords. Scammers can use stolen login credentials for a variety of malicious purposes, including theft of personal and sensitive information, financial fraud, spreading malware, and further phishing attacks.

Threat Summary:
Name Email Access Is Set To Expire Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Access to email account will be blocked
Disguise Letter from Microsoft
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

Phishing emails often create a feeling of urgency, using phrases such as "immediate action required" or "urgent update needed" to make the recipient feel pressured to act quickly. They contain links or attachments that appear legitimate but lead to bogus websites or malware.

Also, such letters attempt to appear legitimate by using the branding and logos of well-known companies or organizations or by pretending to be from a trusted source such as a bank or a government agency. In most cases, they ask the recipient to provide personal or sensitive information, such as passwords, account numbers, or social security numbers.

Examples of phishing emails are "Improvements To All Our e Mail Servers Scam", "Your Account Expiry Email Scam", and "Email Verification Alert Scam".

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Users infect their computers with malware via emails through malicious attachments and links. Malicious attachments can come in various file formats, including PDFs, Microsoft Office documents, ZIP files, JavaScript files, and others. They may contain malware such as ransomware or viruses that activate when the attachment is downloaded or opened.

Similarly, links found in emails can also infect computers with malware by directing users to infected websites that download malware onto their devices.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Be mindful when opening email attachments or clicking links from unknown or suspicious email addresses (especially when emails are unexpected). Keep your operating system, software, and plugins updated with the latest security updates and patches. Use antivirus software and keep it updated.

Only download programs from reliable sources and avoid downloading from Peer-to-Peer networks, suspicious pages, or third-party downloaders. Do not trust advertisements, pop-ups, and links on dubious websites.

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 "Email Access Is Set To Expire" email letter:

Subject: Kindly Update ********
Your email access is set to expire on 25 April, 2023

72hours-left to update your current secure code for ******** .

Kindly update now!
Email: ********

To avoid Email Service Interruption (ESI), you are required to verify your email immediately.
This message was sent to you by The Microsft Team

Screenshot of the phishing website imitating a legitimate site:

Email Access Is Set To Expire phishing page

Another example of an account expiration-themed spam email promoting a phishing site:

Access to your account wil expire today.

Text presented within:

Subject: NOTIFY


M͏ai͏l T͏eams

Hello -

Access to your account wil expire today.
Keep same access to prevent you loosing your account, otherwise your account will be terminated    
Keep Same  Access

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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?

Phishing emails are often sent to large numbers of people in the hope that some of them will fall for the scam. Scammers behind this letter may have obtained your email address from various sources, including public directories, social media, or previous data breaches.

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

If you provided your login credentials in response to the phishing email, immediately change your passwords for any accounts that use that same username and password. Contact your bank or relevant authorities if you provided financial information in response to the phishing email.

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

Opening a malicious email attachment could result in your system being infected with malware, but it ultimately depends on the type of file that was opened. Not all files will infect your computer immediately upon opening them. For example, some malicious Microsoft Office documents may require enabling macros commands in order to inject malware into your system.

I have read the email but did not open the attachment, is my computer infected?

Simply opening an email is not harmful in and of itself. It can be harmful when you click links or open attachments within the email.

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

Combo Cleaner has the ability to detect and remove nearly all known malware. Sophisticated malware can be deeply hidden within the system. Therefore, performing a full system scan is recommended to detect and remove any potential threats.

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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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