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Avoid losing your account via fake "Salary Increase" emails

Also Known As: "Salary Increase" phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of email is "Salary Increase"?

After examining the "Salary Increase" email, we determined that it is spam. This phishing mail targets email account log-in credentials. The lure used to trick recipients into disclosing this information is a fake document sent by their HR regarding a salary increase.

Salary Increase email spam campaign

"Salary Increase" email scam overview

The spam email with the subject "Q1 2024 Approved Salary Increase" (may vary) is presented as a memo from the recipient's HR (Human Resources) manager. The letter states that a document has been sent regarding an increase to the basic salary wage. The recipient is requested to review the file, sign to signify acceptance, and submit a copy to their supervisor.

It must be stressed that this email is fake, and it is not associated with the recipient's HR department or any other legitimate entities.

This scam letter promotes a phishing page that seeks email log-in credentials. Information like passwords entered into this site is recorded and sent to scammers. The risk exceeds the loss of an email; not only can emails contain sensitive data, but they are also used to register other accounts/platforms.

Considering the disguise utilized by this spam mail, it is likely for the compromised accounts to be work emails. They could hold vulnerable business-related information (e.g., financial data, employee and client/customer details, etc.). Furthermore, cyber criminals target these accounts since they could serve as a potential avenue for breaching company networks.

Some other risks linked to the theft of an email are cyber criminals stealing the identities of account owners (e.g., emails, social media, social networking, messengers, etc.) and asking the contacts/friends/followers for loans or donations, promoting scams, and proliferating malware.

Hijacked finance-related accounts (e.g., online banking, money transferring, e-commerce, digital wallets, etc.) can be used to make fraudulent transactions or online purchases.

In summary, by trusting an email like "Salary Increase" – users can experience severe privacy issues, financial losses, and even identity theft.

If you have already provided your log-in credentials – immediately change the passwords of all potentially exposed accounts and contact their official support. If you believe that your work email has been hacked – inform your employer.

Threat Summary:
Name "Salary Increase" phishing email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Disguise Memo regarding a salary increase sent by the recipient's HR.
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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Phishing spam campaign examples

"Roundcube Password Set To Expire", "Account Protection", and "Collaborative Teams" are just a couple examples of phishing campaigns we have written about recently.

Various scams are promoted through spam emails, and they are also used to spread malware. This mail can be plain and full of grammatical/spelling errors or be competently crafted and even believably disguised as messages from legitimate entities (e.g., companies, organizations, institutions, service providers, authorities, etc.).

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

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

It can be enough to merely open an infectious file – to trigger the malware download/installation chain. However, some formats require additional user interaction to jumpstart these processes. For example, Microsoft Office files need users to enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content), while OneNote documents require them to click on embedded links/files.

How to avoid installation of malware?

We strongly recommend being vigilant with incoming emails, PMs/DMs, SMSes, and other messages. Attachments or links found in dubious/irrelevant mail must not be opened, as they can be harmful/infectious.

However, malware is not distributed only through spam mail. Therefore, we advise being careful while browsing, as fraudulent and dangerous online content usually appears genuine and innocuous.

Additionally, all downloads must be made from official and trustworthy channels. Another recommendation is to activate and update software using legitimate functions/tools, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third-party updates can contain malware.

It is paramount for device/user safety to have a reputable anti-virus installed and kept updated. Security programs must be used to run 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 "Salary Increase" spam email letter:

Subject: Q1 2024 Approved Salary Increase


Subject : HR Memo (Salary increase)
From : Human Resources Manager


Hello,


This memo is to confirm our intention to increase your basic salary wages as per the attached payroll computation. The increase will take effect from 1 April 2024 and will be reflected in your pay at the end of the month. To indicate acceptance, kindly sign beside your name and submit the signed copy to your supervisor.


Approved Employee List for Q1 2024 Salary Increase


NB: This document is confidential and should not be forwarded. For issues with accessing document, kindly reach out to your supervisor.


Thanks & Regards,
Director of Human Resources
HR Manager
********
Email :- ********
Web :- ********

Screenshot of the phishing website promoted by the "Salary Increase" spam campaign:

Salary Increase scam email promoted phishing site

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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, even if they include details relevant to the recipients. Cyber criminals distribute this mail by the thousand with the hopes that at least some recipients will fall for the scams.

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

If you have disclosed your log-in credentials – change the passwords of all possibly compromised accounts and inform their official support without delay. And if you've provided other private information (e.g., passport photos/scans, ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) – immediately contact the appropriate authorities.

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

No, systems are infected when malicious attachments/links are opened – hence, reading an email poses no such threat.

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

If it was an executable (.exe, .run, etc.) – most likely, yes – your device was compromised. However, you might have avoided the infection if it was a document (.doc, .xls, .one, .pdf, etc.). These formats may require extra actions (e.g., enabling macros, clicking embedded content, etc.) to begin malware download/installation processes.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can detect and remove most of the known malware infections. Keep in mind that performing a complete system scan is paramount since high-end malicious programs typically 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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