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Home Malware ATO “Incoming Fax Report” Malware Email

ATO “Incoming Fax Report” Malware Email

by Brett M. Christensen


“Incoming Fax Report” email that purports to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) claims that you should open an attached Microsoft Word file to read a secure document.

Brief Analysis

The email is not from the ATO, it is not a “fax report”, and the attached Word document does not contain any legitimate file, secure or otherwise. In fact, the Microsoft Word document contains a malicious macro, that, if enabled, can download and install malware on your computer.


ATO Incoming Fax Report Malware Email

Detailed Analysis

According to this email, which claims to be from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), you can view an “incoming fax report” by opening an attached Microsoft Word file. The fax is supposedly a secure document. The email features the Australian Government logo along with a seemingly legitimate privacy footer.

However, the email is not from the ATO and the attached Word file does not contain the tax-related document you might be expecting.

If you try to open the attachment, you will be prompted to click “enable macros”, ostensibly so that the document’s “secure” contents can be correctly decrypted and displayed.

But, instead of decrypting the document, the macro will contact a server and download and install malware. The specific type of malware payload may vary. Malicious macros are regularly used to infect computers with ransomware. Ransomware can lock the files on your computer and then demand that you pay money to cyber criminals to get a decryption key.

Alternatively, the malware may steal sensitive information such as banking and social media login details from the infected computer.

Unless you have a specific need to use macros and are aware of their potential security risks, it is wise to leave them disabled by default. For those that might not be aware, a “macro” in this context is a set of commands and instructions that can be collected as a single command in order to quickly and automatically accomplish a task.  This earlier Hoax-Slayer report has more information about macro malware attacks.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,