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Check The Size of Webmail Inbox Phishing Scam

Email claims that the recipient's webmail inbox is close to its maximum size and instructs him or her to reply with the account username and password so that the database can be reset (Full commentary below).

Message is a phishing scam designed to steal email account information

Example:(Submitted, April 2009)
Subject: checks the size of inboxes,

Dear Webmail User,

This message was sent automatically by a program on Webmail which periodically checks the size of inboxes, where new messages are received. The program is run weekly to ensure no one's inbox grows too large. If your inbox becomes too large, you will be unable to receive new email. Just before this message was sent, you had 18 Megabytes (MB) or more of messages stored in your inbox on your Webmail. To help us re-set your SPACE on our database prior to maintain your INBOX, you must reply to this e-mail and enter your:

Current User name: { }
and Password: { }
Date of Birth:{ }

You will continue to receive this warning message periodically if your inbox size continues to be between 18 and 20 MB. If your inbox size grows to 20 MB, then a program on Bates Webmail will move your oldest email to a folder in your home directory to ensure that you will continue to be able to receive incoming email. You will be notified by email that this has taken place. If your inbox grows to 25 MB, you will be unable to receive new email as it will be returned to the sender. After you read a message, it is best to REPLY and SAVE a copy.

Thank you for your cooperation.
Webmail Helpdesk

This email purports to be an automatic webmail admin message that warns account holders that their webmail account inboxes are nearing the maximum allowed size and need to be reset in order to allow the continued delivery of email. The message claims that account holders need to reply to the message with their webmail username and password so that the account's email database can be reset.

However, the message is not from any webmail system's administrator. Instead, it is a phishing scam designed to steal webmail account details. Those who reply as instructed will be handing over the email account username and password to Internet scammers. Once these scammers receive the account information from a victim, they are then able to access his or her email account, steal personal information, and use the account to send spam, more scam emails or pose as the account holder when engaging in various fraudulent activities.

One way that the scammers may use the contact list stored in the webmail account is to send out scam messages designed to fool recipients into sending them money. For example, people on the contact list may receive an "urgent" email claiming that the victim of the phishing attack has lost his or her money, cards and papers and is stuck in a foreign country with no way of getting home. The email will ask the recipient to wire money to help the poor stranded traveller to get home, with, of course, a solemn promise to pay the money back on his or her return.

Because the scammers have hijacked their victim's account and contact list , the scam emails will arrive from the address of someone the recipients think they know. The bogus emails from the hijacked account may well include the victim's usual email signature and real name. Thus, some people on the victim's contact list may be tricked into believing the claims in the message and send off the money to help their "friend". Those who do send money will probably receive further requests for money to cover "unexpected expenses". All money sent will line the pockets of the criminals running the scam and the kind-hearted sender is very unlikely to get any of his or her money back. Meanwhile, the real owners of the webmail accounts may have not yet even realized that scam emails are being sent in their names with the intent of stealing money from their friends.

Webmail users should be very cautious of any email that asks them to reply with the account username and password. Such tactics are regularly used by Internet criminals. Another, very similar version of the scam claims that the account holder's webmail will be closed down if he or she does not reply with the account username and password. Other webmail account phishing scams may try to entice users into logging in via a link in the message. The link will open a bogus webpage that looks very similar to the genuine webmail login page. Scammers can harvest the username and password of any users who attempt to login on the bogus webpage. No legitimate webmail administration system is ever likely to request an account holder's username and password via an unsolicited email. Never send your username and password via an email. Always ensure that you login to your webmail account only via the official login page.

Webmail Account Phishing Scam

Last updated: 6th April 2009
First published: 6th April 2009

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen

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