Avoid getting scammed by fake "Apple Security Releases" emails

Also Known As: "Apple Security Releases" spam email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of email is "Apple Security Releases"?

Our analysis of the "Apple Security Releases" email uncovered that it is fake. This spam letter promotes a callback scam. The email lures recipients into calling a bogus helpline through false claims regarding an expensive security feature for iOS. Callback scams tend to be elaborate and can cause severe issues, ranging from system infections to significant financial losses.

Apple Security Releases email spam campaign

"Apple Security Releases" email scam overview

This spam email is presented as a notification from Apple. It informs the recipient of the newest updates to iOS 16, which include a feature against "security theft". For the upgrades to the "Apple Security" and "Firewall Protection", the recipient will be charged 273.00 USD. If a recipient has any questions, the email encourages them to call the provided helpline.

It must be stressed that all these claims are false, and this mail is in no way associated with Apple Inc. or any other legitimate entities.

This email promotes a callback scam that likely operates as a refund scheme. Scams of this kind typically involve remote access to devices, wherein the scammers pretend to be "support", "expert technicians", etc., and ask to access users' devices remotely. This can be facilitated using genuine software like AnyDesk, UltraViewer, TeamViewer, etc.

After establishing the connection, cyber criminals continue the pretense of being support while performing malicious activities. Scammers may disable or remove genuine security tools, install fake anti-viruses, obtain sensitive data, and infiltrate malware into the system (e.g., trojans, ransomware, cryptominers, etc.).

Targeted information may include log-in credentials (e.g., emails, social networking/media, online banking, e-commerce, cryptowallets, etc.), personally identifiable details, credit card numbers, etc. Victims may be tricked into disclosing this data over the phone or entering it into phishing websites/files. Alternatively, information can be acquired using data-stealing malware.

To elaborate on refund scams, which "Apple Security Releases" likely promotes, they begin with scammers claiming that a bogus payment has already been charged. The fake support offers a refund and requests the victim to sign into their online bank account.

The remote access software's feature to darken the user's screen is utilized, and – although the victim cannot see their screen – they are asked to enter the refund amount. Meanwhile, the cyber criminals either move funds between accounts (e.g., from savings to checking) or alter the website's HTML (to change what the page displays).

While neither of these actions affects the money in the banking account, they create the appearance of more funds getting sent to it. The scammers claim that the user made a mistake when typing the refund amount and were sent a significantly larger amount. The victim is requested or even begged to return the "excess funds".

Since nothing was ever sent to the account, by sending anything to the criminals – the victims will get scammed out of their own money. Cyber criminals typically use difficult-to-trace methods for obtaining funds, e.g., cryptocurrencies, gift cards, cash hidden in packages and shipped, etc. Using these methods diminishes the chances of persecution and fund retrieval. It is noteworthy that successfully scammed victims are often targeted repeatedly.

In summary, by trusting an email like "Apple Security Releases" – users can experience system infections, severe privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft.

If you have allowed scammers to access your device remotely – disconnect it from the Internet and remove the program that the criminals used (as they may not need your consent to reconnect). Afterward, perform a full system scan with an anti-virus and remove all detected threats.

If you believe that your log-in credentials have been exposed – change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts. However, if you suspect that your other private data has been exposed (e.g., ID card details, passport photos/scans, credit card numbers, etc.) – immediately contact the appropriate authorities.

Threat Summary:
Name "Apple Security Releases" spam email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim New updates to the iOS will cost 273.00 USD.
Disguise Apple
Support Scammer Phone Number +1(808) 756-9159
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 spam campaign examples

We have examined countless spam emails; "PayPal - Unauthorized Transaction", "McAfee Has Successfully Renewed Your Membership", and "Norton Subscription Renewal Confirmation" are just a few examples of ones promoting callback scams.

Another common callback-type scam is fake tech support. However, various schemes are promoted through spam mail, including (but not limited to): phishing attempts (e.g., for log-in credentials, personally identifiable details, finance-related information, etc.), sextortion, hoax cryptocurrency giveaways, and so forth.

Furthermore, deceptive emails are utilized in malware distribution. Despite being infamous for their numerous grammatical and spelling errors, spam messages may be competently crafted as missives/notifications from legitimate service providers, companies, institutions, authorities, and other entities.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Cyber criminals commonly use spam campaigns to spread malware. The emails/messages can include malicious files as attachments or download links. These files come in various formats, e.g., documents (Microsoft Office, Microsoft OneNote, PDF, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), archives (RAR, ZIP, etc.), JavaScript, and so on.

Upon being opened, a virulent file initiates the malware download/installation chain. Some formats may require additional user interaction to trigger system infection processes. For example, Microsoft Office files need users to enable macro commands (editing/content), while OneNote documents require them to click on embedded files/links.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is important to always treat incoming emails and other messages with caution. Attachments or links present in dubious/irrelevant mail must not be opened, as they can be malicious. We recommend using post-2010 Microsoft Office versions since they have the "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic macro execution.

Since malware is not proliferated exclusively via spam mail, we also advise being careful while browsing, as fraudulent and dangerous online content usually appears genuine and innocuous.

Another recommendation is to download only from official and trustworthy channels. Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated by using legitimate functions/tools, as illegal activation tools ("cracks") and third-party updates may contain malware.

We must stress the importance of having a dependable anti-virus installed and kept updated. This software must be used to perform regular system scans and to remove detected threats and issues. 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 "Apple Security Releases" spam email letter:

Apple security releases

Invoice Number: TG-417-62774

Dear User,

The latest version of iOS 16 has new security feature to protect your devices from security theft. You will be charged $273.00 for the Security upgradation. Thank you for your support. If you have any questions,
please feel free to contact us.+1(808) 756-9159

Description | Quantity | Unit Price | Total
Apple Security | 1 | $113.00 | $113.00
Firewall Protection | 1 | $160.00 | $160.00

Total Amount: $273.00

Thank You
Apple Security

Thank you for choosing Us.
©2023 Apple Security, LLC. All rights reserved.

Do not want this email from us click Unsubscribe me.

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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 operations – therefore, 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 provided your account credentials – change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts and inform their official support without delay. However, if the disclosed information was of a different personal nature (e.g., ID card details, passport photos/scans, credit card numbers, etc.) – immediately contact relevant authorities.

I have allowed cyber criminals to remotely access my computer, what should I do?

If you have allowed scammers to connect to your device remotely – firstly, disconnect it from the Internet. Secondly, uninstall the remote access software (e.g., UltraViewer, TeamViewer, etc.) that the cyber criminals used, as they may not require your permission to reconnect. Lastly, perform a complete system scan with an anti-virus and remove all detected threats.

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

Merely reading an email is harmless. Devices are infected when malicious files or links are opened/clicked.

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

Whether your device was infected might depend on the format of the opened file. If it was an executable (.exe, .run, etc.) – most likely, yes – the system was compromised. However, you might have avoided this if it was a document (.doc, .xls, .one, .pdf, etc.). These formats can require extra actions to jumpstart malware download/installation processes (e.g., enabling macro commands, clicking embedded content, etc.).

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner is designed to scan systems and eliminate threats. It can detect and remove practically all known malware infections. Keep in mind that running a full system scan is key – since sophisticated malicious programs tend to 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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