How to recognize fraudulent emails like "Business Proposal"

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

What kind of scam is "Business Proposal"?

Upon reviewing the email, we have determined that it is a fraudulent message masquerading as a business proposal. The scammers intend to entice recipients into participating in an advance-fee scheme. Furthermore, it is imperative to exercise caution and refrain from disclosing any information in response to such deceptive communications or sending money.

Business Proposal email spam campaign

More about the "Business Proposal" scam email

The email begins with an attempt to establish credibility by claiming to be from a specific bank in South Africa. The sender alleges to have discovered an unclaimed sum of USD 16 million belonging to a deceased client who supposedly passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic. They propose that the recipient pose as the deceased client's next of kin in order to facilitate the release of the funds.

The promise of a 50% share of the funds is used as bait to entice the recipient into participating in the scam. The urgency of the matter and the request for confidentiality are common tactics employed to pressure the victim into responding quickly without seeking verification or advice.

Finally, the email provides a contact email address for further communication, indicating a desire to move the scam into a more private setting. Overall, the email is designed to manipulate the recipient into providing personal and financial information or making payments upfront, with the false promise of a lucrative reward.

Recovery of lost funds can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and victims may also become targets for future scams as their information is circulated within criminal networks. Falling for such scams can have devastating consequences for victims, impacting their financial stability and sense of security.

Threat Summary:
Name Business Proposal Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Recipients are promised a significant sum of money in exchange for their assistance
Disguise Letter from a person named Ibrahim Mustafa regarding a business proposal
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 scams in general

Emails of this kind typically have an urgent or enticing subject line, aiming to grab the recipient's attention. The body of the email usually contains a fabricated story or proposal, often involving a large sum of money and a sense of urgency. Scammers frequently request personal or financial information and emphasize the need for confidentiality.

Grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and inconsistencies in language or formatting are other common indicators of fraudulent activity. These emails exploit human vulnerabilities such as greed, curiosity, and urgency to deceive recipients into providing sensitive information or making payments.

Examples of similar scams are "Western Union Money Transfer", "Publishers Clearing House", and "Scam Relief Fund Initiative". It is important to be aware that cybercriminals often employ email as a tool to trick users into infecting their computers.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Cybercriminals behind emails intended to deliver malware aim to lure recipients into causing computer infections through malicious attachments or links. These attachments, such as documents or images, may appear harmless but contain malware and infect systems once opened.

Similarly, clicking on links within the email can lead users to fake websites or download pages that distribute malware onto their devices. Not every file received via email can infect computers upon opening. Certain files may necessitate further actions from users to trigger the embedded malware.

For instance, malicious MS Office documents cannot introduce malware unless users enable macros commands. Some examples of types of files used to distribute malware are executable files (.exe), script files (.js or .vbs), document files (.docx or .pdf), compressed files (.zip or .rar), and shortcut files (.lnk).

How to avoid installation of malware?

Exercise caution when encountering links or attachments from unknown addresses, particularly if emails appear unexpected or irrelevant. Obtain files and applications from reputable sources such as official websites or trusted app stores. Avoid clicking on dubious links, pop-ups, or ads.

Regularly update your software and operating system to mitigate potential vulnerabilities. Refrain from downloading pirated software or using cracking tools to activate software. Employ dependable antivirus or anti-malware software as an added layer of protection.

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 "Business Proposal" email letter:

Subject: Urgent Business Proposal.

Below is My Business Proposal to you.  

I will like to discuss this business with you and it has nothing to do with someone in my country, only someone outside South Africa can handle this deal. i got your contact details from when I was searching for a friend Information On-line Service on my personal programmed search on the internet for an individual to assist with sincerely & confidential which your information & profiles were very satisfactory, so I decided to contact you immediately. It is my great pleasure to write you this letter.

Within the bank where I work as an account officer, I want to tell you that I work with Absa bank of South Africa, And here in our bank I discovered that a customer deposited the sum of USD16 Million Dollars in our bank On my finding out i discovered that he passed away on the covid-19 Pandemic and since then none of his relative came for the funds claim and I don’t think anyone knows about this funds only me that is his account officer knows about it.

So I am writing to you as I will want you to stand as his next of kin so that the funds will be released to you. It is pure deal transaction between me and you. I am seeking your assistance to front as the next of kin to the unclaimed deceased funds

I have to propose that should you be willing to assist me in this transaction your share as compensation will be (50%) and I will then take (50%) .

The business is completely safe and secure provided you treat it with Utmost confidentiality.

Your urgent response is needed.

Please kindly contact me back on my private email:


Thanks best regards

Mr. Ibrahim Mustafa

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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?

Phishing attacks typically entail the mass distribution of emails to a wide array of recipients, with the aim of ensnaring unsuspecting individuals in the scam. These emails are often sent out indiscriminately, utilizing email addresses sourced from public platforms, leaked databases, or prior data breaches.

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

If you have shared banking or credit card details, notify your bank or credit card provider. For ID card disclosures, inform the local government agency handling identity theft. Also, mark the email as spam or phishing with your service provider.

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

The risk level differs based on the file type. For example, executing an executable file poses a significant risk of infection, while document files like .pdf or .doc are less likely to cause immediate harm.

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

Cryptocurrency transactions are fundamentally untraceable, rendering their reversal nearly impossible.

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

Simply opening an email does not pose a risk. However, clicking on links or opening attached files can lead to computer infections.

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

Combo Cleaner is capable of detecting and removing the majority of known malware infections. Advanced malware often hides deeply within the system. Therefore, conducting a thorough system scan is essential to eradicate 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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