How to spot scams like "Proposal Letter"

Also Known As: Proposal Letter advance-fee scam
Damage level: Medium

What kind of scam is "Proposal Letter"?

Upon thorough examination of this email, our team has determined that it is an advance-fee scam. The primary objective of this message is to defraud unsuspecting recipients by coaxing them into revealing personal information or making monetary transactions to scammers. Therefore, it is advised that recipients disregard this email.

Proposal Letter email spam campaign

More about the "Proposal Letter" scam email

The letter begins with a generic salutation and expresses the hope that the recipient is doing well. It states that an attached PDF file contains a proposal letter that demands immediate attention and requests a reply if the recipient is interested.

The fake proposal letter is supposedly written by a person named Ms. Winnie Choi, claiming to be the Head of Wealth Management at Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited. The letter states that it pertains to an estate of a deceased client who shares a similar surname with the recipient. It mentions an investment made 11 years ago and apologizes for any privacy infringement caused.

The letter emphasizes the need for confidentiality and claims that the bank has been unsuccessful in locating a beneficiary. It requests the recipient's assistance in repatriating the funds, offering a 50% share of the funds for cooperation. The letter insists that the transaction is legitimate and urges the recipient to indicate a willingness to proceed.

It appears that the purpose of this fake proposal is to deceive the recipient into believing that there are substantial funds left behind by a deceased client. The scammers aim to exploit the recipient's curiosity, trust, and financial aspirations.

They seek to convince the recipient to provide personal information, cooperate in facilitating the transfer of the funds, and ultimately make upfront fees or payments under the guise of a legitimate transaction. The ultimate goal is to defraud the recipient and obtain personal information and financial contributions through fraudulent means.

Threat Summary:
Name Proposal Letter Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Recipients can become beneficiaries of funds
Disguise Letter from Head of Wealth Management at Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited
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 kind typically have several common elements. They often impersonate reputable organizations or individuals, create a sense of urgency or importance, and offer enticing financial opportunities. They frequently request personal information or financial contributions while emphasizing the need for confidentiality and urging quick action from the recipient.

Examples of other email scams are "Social Security Administrator Email Scam", "Office Printer Email Scam", and "Impossibility Of Your Transferring Your Funds Email Scam". It is important to mention that email can be employed to deliver malware.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Cybercriminals distribute malware via email by incorporating malicious files or links within their letters. These files can be found in different formats like archives (e.g., ZIP and RAR), executables (e.g., .exe and .run), documents (e.g., PDF and Microsoft Office), JavaScript files, ISO files, and others.

The process of infection begins when a user executes, runs, or opens one of these files. For instance, devices can be infected through Microsoft Office documents by executing malicious macro commands, while other files may require additional actions to be taken in order to deploy the malware.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Keep your operating system and software up to date by installing the latest security patches and updates. Use reliable antivirus software and keep it regularly updated. Be vigilant of phishing emails and avoid downloading files or clicking on links unless you can verify their legitimacy.

Practice safe browsing habits by avoiding questionable websites, refraining from clicking on suspicious ads or pop-ups, and being cautious when downloading software from untrusted sources. Stick to reputable websites and download software from official sources or trusted app stores whenever possible.

If you have already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Proposal Letter" email letter:

Subject: Proposal Letter

Dear Sir/Madam,

I hope this email finds you well,
Please find in attached pdf file a proposal letter that requires your urgent attention, and reply if interested.

Best Regards

Screenshot of the fake propsal in the attachment:

Proposal letter email scam attached fake proposal (Proposal Letter.pdf)

Text in the attached file ("Proposal Letter.pdf"):

Dear Sir/Madam
I hope this letterl nds you well. I am Ms. Winnie Choi, the Head Of Wealth Management,
Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited.
I am writing to you in regard to the estate of a deceased client with a surname similar
to yours and an investment placed under our bank's management 11 years ago. I apologize
for any inconvenience caused in relation to your privacy infringement. However, I would like
to proceed with the proposal details. Please ensure the condentiality of this information, as
this letter is strictly for your private attention. No other party is privy to our communication,
and it must remain that way.
In 2012, the Deceased Depositor (Late Mr. Richard), a foreign contractor with China National
Oshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), deposited an amount of Thirty-One Million, Two Hundred
and Seventy-Five Thousand Dollars ($31,275,000.00) in our bank, Citibank (Hong Kong)
Limited. Despite numerous attempts to contact the depositor, it was later discovered that he
passed on in an auto crash, together with all the other occupants of the vehicle. Since then,
my bank has been trying to locate a beneciary, all eorts have been futile.
As the personal account manager and nancial adviser to the deceased depositor, my bank
(Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited) has instructed me to expedite the claim process for
repatriating the funds left behind. Subsequently, they have given me a mandate to nd a
next of kin within 14 days. I am contacting you to assist me in repatriating the funds left
behind by my late client.
There is no risk involved if you agree to work with me, as I will acquire all necessary
documentation from the bank to make you the next of kin to the funds. You will be entitled
to 50% of the funds while I get the remaining 50% as the originator of the deal. This is a
legitimate transaction that adheres strictly to all legal provisions.
As the Head Of Wealth Management at Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited, I guarantee the
successful execution of this transaction with your cooperation. Kindly observe utmost
condentiality and urgency for guaranteed success. If you are willing to work with me,
please indicate your willingness.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Best regards,
Ms. Winnie Choi
Head Of Wealth Management,Citibank (Hong Kong) Limited.

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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 distribute scam emails to a broad audience without personalized content. The purpose of these emails is to cast a wide net and target many individuals in anticipation that the scam will successfully deceive at least a few of the recipients.

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

If you have provided sensitive personal information, such as credit card details or identification card information, it is crucial to notify the relevant authorities immediately.

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

No, the file attached to this email is not malicious. Thus, it cannot infect a computer. However, emails can contain malicious links or files designed to distribute malware.

I have sent cryptocurrency to the address presented in such email, can I get my money back?

These transactions are nearly untraceable, resulting in the inability to recover them.

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

No, simply opening an email is entirely safe. However, engaging with links in the email or opening attached files can potentially lead to system infections.

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

Combo Cleaner can detect and remove most malware. However, it is important to know that advanced malware occasionally hides deeply within a system, emphasizing the importance of performing a thorough system 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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