How to avoid falling for phishing scams like "Account Shutdown Notification"

Also Known As: Account Shutdown Notification phishing campaign
Damage level: Medium

What is "Account Shutdown Notification"?

We examined the email and found that it is a deceptive message, commonly referred to as a phishing attempt, orchestrated by scammers. Their primary objective is to deceive recipients into divulging personal information by tricking them into accessing a fraudulent webpage designed to mimic a legitimate login portal. Consequently, it is advised to disregard this email.

Account Shutdown Notification email spam campaign

More about the "Account Shutdown Notification" scam email

The body of the email contains a message informing the recipient of an imminent account shutdown due to a purported request received from their email settings. It prompts the recipient to click on a provided link labeled "Cancel shutdown" if they did not initiate the request.

The email employs a tactic of urgency by threatening that failure to verify the account within 24 hours will result in the email being shut down. Additionally, the email includes a footer with a copyright sign, a common tactic to make the email appear more legitimate.

Overall, the email creates a sense of urgency and fear to prompt the recipient to take immediate action without considering the authenticity of the request. It aims to trick the recipient into clicking on the provided link, which leads to a phishing webpage designed to steal login credentials or other sensitive information.

Scammers exploit stolen login credentials for a variety of nefarious purposes. For instance, they use the compromised credentials to gain unauthorized access to the victim's personal accounts (e.g., social media profiles or email accounts). With this access, they can harvest sensitive personal information, make unauthorized purchases, or even impersonate the victim for further fraudulent activities.

Also, scammers may attempt to access online banking or payment platforms to siphon funds directly from the victim's accounts or conduct unauthorized transactions. They may also exploit the compromised credentials to gain access to sensitive financial information, such as credit card numbers or banking details, which they can then sell on the dark web or use to commit identity fraud.

In addition to these financial motives, stolen login credentials can also be leveraged for broader cybercriminal activities, such as launching phishing campaigns, spreading malware, or perpetrating cyber espionage.

Threat Summary:
Name Account Shutdown Notification Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim The recipient has requested to shut down an email account
Disguise Letter from an email service provider
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 emails in general

Phishing emails are deceptive messages crafted by cybercriminals to trick recipients into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial details, or personal data. These emails often appear legitimate, impersonating trusted entities like banks, social media platforms, or government agencies.

They commonly employ tactics of urgency or fear to prompt recipients to open malicious links or download harmful attachments. Therefore, it is essential to remain vigilant and cautious when encountering unsolicited emails, verifying their authenticity before taking any action.

Examples of phishing emails are "cPanel Mail Server IMAP/POP3 Error", "Your Invoice Is Ready", and "American Express - Disputed Payment Received".

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Threat actors often include hyperlinks in emails that appear legitimate but actually lead to malicious websites. These sites may prompt users to download malware-infected files or exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers or plugins to inject malware.

Another common tactic is to attach files, such as executable programs or documents, to the email. These files may contain hidden malware that activates when the user opens them. For example, opening a seemingly innocent Word document could trigger the installation of ransomware or spyware onto the computer.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Exercise caution with unsolicited emails, particularly those from unfamiliar senders or with dubious subject lines. Refrain from clicking on links or downloading attachments from these emails. Keep your operating system, software applications, and antivirus software updated regularly to enhance your computer's security measures.

Moreover, prioritize downloading applications from trustworthy sources such as official websites or reputable app stores. Adopt safe browsing practices by avoiding suspicious websites and abstaining from clicking on advertisements, pop-ups, or links from unknown sources.

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 "Account Shutdown Notification" email letter:

Subject: Please verify your email account ********

Account Shutdown Notification
For: ********     
This is to notify you that we received a request from your email settings instructing us to shutdown your account. if you did not make this request, click cancel below.
Cancel shut down
If you fail to verify your account within 24hrs, your email will be shut down.
This email was sent by ********. Not for you? Unsubscribe
© 2023

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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 distribute identical emails to a large number of recipients, aiming to deceive at least one person. These spam emails lack personalization and are designed to cast a wide net in the hope of catching unsuspecting individuals.

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

If you have disclosed any account credentials, it is crucial to change all associated passwords immediately to prevent unauthorized access to your accounts. Additionally, if you have shared credit card details or ID card information, it is essential to notify the relevant authorities promptly to mitigate the risk of identity theft or financial fraud.

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

If the suspicious file was an executable, it is likely that malware has infiltrated your system. However, if the file was a document like .pdf or .doc, there is a chance you may have avoided infection. Merely opening these types of documents does not always lead to malware infiltrating your system.

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

Merely opening an email itself does not pose a risk to your system's security. However, interacting with the email's content, such as clicking links or opening attached files, can lead to system infections and other security threats.

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

Combo Cleaner is effective in detecting and removing nearly all known malware infections. However, it is essential to note that some sophisticated malware may hide deep within the system, making it harder to detect. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to run a full system scan to ensure comprehensive coverage and thorough removal of 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.

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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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