How to spot fake emails like "Pass-code Expires Today"

Also Known As: Pass-code Expires Today phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What is "Pass-code Expires Today"?

Our analysis of email has revealed that it is a phishing email disguised as a notification from an email service provider. The scammers behind it seek to trick recipients into opening a fake website and disclosing personal information. Thus, recipients should ignore this email and never provide sensitive details on pages opened through links in such emails.

Pass-code Expires Today email spam campaign

More about the "Pass-code Expires Today" scam email

This phishing email is designed to appear urgent by stating that the recipient's email account passcode is set to expire. It prompts the recipient to update their account immediately or continue to use their current password. The link ("Keep Current Password" button) in this email is designed to open a phishing page.

The phishing page instructs visitors to sign in to access their email accounts. It requests that they enter an email address and password (email account login credentials). Once entered, the information is sent to malicious actors. Scammers can misuse the stolen email account login credentials in various ways.

Once accessed by scammers, email accounts can be inspected for sensitive information and used to send phishing emails, spam, or even malware to other people (including the victims' contacts). Furthermore, scammers may attempt unauthorized access to social media and other accounts using the pilfered credentials, leading to further complications such as financial loss and identity theft.

Additionally, scammers might sell the stolen data to other cybercriminals. Thus, it is important to recognize phishing emails and avoid providing personal information via email or on sites presented in suspicious emails to avoid losing money, access to online accounts, or experiencing other issues.

Threat Summary:
Name Pass-code Expires Today Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim The recipient's password expires today
Related Domain pub-ac68e78962b654f844935ertdtfemm-com[.]gs
Detection Names (pub-ac68e78962b654f844935ertdtfemm-com[.]gs) Abusix (Spam), Fortinet (Spam), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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Similar scam emails in general

Emails of this type often use urgent language to trick recipients into taking action without examining them. Also, they often include names of real companies, organizations, service providers, or other entities. Scammers behind such scams aim to extract personal information directly via email or deceptive pages.

It is important to know that emails sent by cybercriminals can contain malicious links or attachments. Here are some examples of phishing emails: "Roundcube Found Several Undelivered Messages", "Specification Of Products", and "New Messages Notification".

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Deceptive emails designed to lure users into executing malware on their computers contain harmful links or attachments. Clicking on these links may direct recipients to websites intended to initiate drive-by downloads or persuade them to download malicious files or applications. Files attached to such emails can infect computers immediately after opening them or upon taking additional steps.

Executable files can inject malware right after opening them, but MS Word documents (unless opened with MS Office released prior to 2010) cannot infect computers without users enabling macros commands (editing or content). Similarly, archive files cannot compromise systems unless their contents are extracted and malware is executed.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Be careful with suspicious emails (unexpected/irrelevant emails from unknown addresses). Avoid opening files or links in emails without carefully examining them. Obtain software and files exclusively from official sites and trusted app stores. Do not interact with advertisements, pop-ups, and buttons on questionable websites.

Also, do not permit suspicious sites to send notifications, avoid downloading pirated software, and ensure your operating system and software are kept up to date. Lastly, utilize reputable antivirus or anti-malware software and conduct regular system scans. 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 "Pass-code Expires Today" email letter:

Subject: Authentication/ Expire Request

Pass-code for ******** expires today
You can update your Account now or continue using current password.

Keep Current Password

******** Support

Deceptive website utilized in this phishing campaign:

Pass-code Expires Today Email Scam phishing page

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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?

As a rule, phishing emails are sent to a large number of addresses. In other words, such emails are not personal. Scammers obtain email addresses through data breaches, the dark web, or other means.

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

If you have provided an email address and password, update the passwords for any accounts linked to the exposed login details. Additionally, inform your email service provider.

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

The probability of malware infiltration varies based on the file format. Executable files pose a significantly higher risk, whereas document files like PDFs or Word documents cannot inject malware unless users perform additional steps (e.g., enable macros commands).

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

Malware can breach systems through malicious attachments or links. Hence, merely reading emails is typically safe.

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

Yes, Combo Cleaner will detect and remove malware. It can detect almost all known malware. It is important to mention that high-end malware can hide deep in the operating system. In such cases, a full system scan is required to find and eliminate malware.

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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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