How to avoid falling for scam emails like "Publishers Clearing House"

Also Known As: Publishers Clearing House lottery scam
Damage level: Medium

What is "Publishers Clearing House" scam?

We reviewed the email and found that its purpose is to deceive recipients into divulging personal information and (or) transferring money. This email corresponds to what is commonly referred to as a lottery scam. It is a scheme where individuals receive unsolicited emails claiming that they have won a lottery, sweepstakes, or prize draw, often from a well-known company or organization.

Publishers Clearing House email spam campaign

More about the "Publishers Clearing House" scam email

The email claims to be from Publishers Clearing House (PCH) and informs the recipient that they have won a significant prize of $2,000,000. It states that the selection process was conducted through an electronic email ballot system and assures the recipient that they are the rightful winner.

The message requests the recipient to provide their personal details, including their name, home address, phone number, and country, to complete the winning process. The email is signed by someone claiming to be Kunz James Douglas, the Claims & Remittance Director at Publishers Clearing House, and provides a contact email address for further communication (publishersclearinghouse3333@gmail.com).

Recipients should exercise caution and refrain from responding to such emails, as they are attempts to defraud individuals by tricking them into providing personal information or making payments under false pretenses.

Scammers often use tactics such as fake lottery notifications, sweepstakes winnings, or prize claims to convince individuals to part with their money or financial information. They may request upfront fees, taxes, or processing charges to release the supposed prize, promising a larger sum of money in return.

However, once the payment is made, the scammers typically disappear, leaving the victim without the promised prize and at risk of financial loss or identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name Publishers Clearing House Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Recipients have won a significant prize
Disguise Letter from Publishers Clearing House (PCH)
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

Such scam emails often share common characteristics that help recipients identify them as fraudulent. These include unsolicited notifications of lottery wins or prize claims from well-known companies or organizations, requests for personal information or upfront payments to release the prize, poor grammar and spelling errors, generic greetings, and the use of unprofessional or generic email addresses.

Additionally, legitimate lottery organizations typically do not notify winners via email, especially if the recipient has not participated in any lottery or sweepstakes. These commonalities serve as red flags for recipients to exercise caution and skepticism when encountering such emails.

More examples of similar fraudulent emails are "Scam Relief Fund Initiative", "Unclaimed Expensive Goods", and "Cashier Check". It is important to be aware that emails sent by cybercriminals can include links or attachments designed to deliver malware.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Users can infect their computers via email by clicking on malicious links or downloading and opening infected attachments in deceptive emails. These emails may impersonate legitimate entities and trick users into taking actions that compromise their security. It is worth noting that not all files infect computers immediately after opening. Some malware may remain dormant or require additional user actions to execute and cause harm to the system.

Files commonly used to distribute malware include executable files (such as .exe), script files (such as .js or .vbs), document files (such as .docx or .pdf), compressed files (such as .zip or .rar), and shortcut files (such as .lnk). These files may contain malicious code or payloads that, when executed, can infect the user's computer with various forms of malware.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Exercise caution when opening email attachments or links in emails, and be wary of unsolicited emails, especially those requesting sensitive information or urging urgent action. Download software (and files) from official pages or app stores. Do not download pirated software (or cracking tools) or use shady pages, third-party downloaders, and similar sources for downloading.

Avoid interacting with pop-ups, ads, download buttons on questionable pages, or notifications from shady websites. Keep the operating system and installed apps up to date. Use reputable antivirus or anti-malware software and keep it regularly updated to detect and remove any potential threats.

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 "Publishers Clearing House" email letter:

Subject: PCH

Publishers Clearing House
I hereby use this medium to acknowledge the receipt of your claims requirement regarding the winning notification mail you received, that inform you of the prize you have won. I wish to inform you that the PCH lotto promotion department have approved your payment of
$2.000,000.00 US dollars.
In case you still have doubts arising from the angle of how you got selected, Note that the selection process was carried out through an electronic email ballot system our aim was to select winners through the Internet this is due to the fact that only you alone have access to your email account so have no fear for you have emerged a true winner as far as you are the original proprietor to the email account which you have received the
Kindly provide me with your details through this email address below: publishersclearinghouse3333@gmail.com

so i can complete your PCH winning without any delay.

Home Address
Phone Number

Congratulations once again. Best Regards,
Kunz James Douglas
Claims & Remittance Director
Publishers Clearing House.

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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?

Scammers often send emails to many recipients in the hope that some individuals will fall for their schemes. They may obtain email addresses from public directories or data breaches. Also, if you may have previously interacted with suspicious websites, shared your email address on online forums, or made online purchases from untrustworthy sources.

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

Report the scam email to the relevant authorities. If you have shared any financial information, contact your bank about the incident.

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

If the file was an executable, then there is a high likelihood that it could have caused infection. However, you may have avoided infection if it was a document file such as .pdf or .doc. Sometimes, simply opening a document is not sufficient for malware to penetrate the system.

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

Unfortunately, retrieving cryptocurrency sent to a scammer's address is highly unlikely. Once the transaction is confirmed on the blockchain, it is typically irreversible.

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

Merely opening an email poses no risk. Computers can be infected by clicking links within the email or opening attached files.

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

Combo Cleaner can identify and eradicate the majority of known malware infections. However, it is crucial to recognize that advanced malware often conceals itself deeply within the system. Thus, performing a comprehensive system scan is imperative to effectively detect and remove any hidden 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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