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Email Phishing Via Bogus Attached HTML Forms

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on September 16, 2013

Most modern browsers have built-in mechanisms that try to protect users from phishing scams. If a user clicks a link in a reported phishing scam email, the browser will display a page that warns that the user is about to go to a fraudulent website. The warnings very clearly explain the possible dangers of proceeding.  

These systems check the clicked URL against a regularly updated list of phishing sites. Of course, if a phishing site has not yet been reported and listed, the browser will not display a phishing warning and, unfortunately, many people still get caught out. Nevertheless, the systems do effectively thwart many scam attempts.

To overcome this impediment to their nefarious schemes, phishing scammers commonly send their fake forms via email attachments. When opened, the HTML attachment will load the fake form in the user’s browser and it will appear like a normal webpage.  And, like a “normal” phishing page, any information submitted on the fake form will be sent to criminals. But, because it was delivered as an attached file, the form will not normally be included on the browser’s list of phishing sites and, therefore, no warning will be displayed.

No legitimate entity is ever likely to expect its users to provide login credentials and other sensitive personal and financial information via an HTML form contained in an attached file. Such forms will not be secure as all forms that collect sensitive information certainly should be.

So, any message that asks you to provide personal and financial information by filling in such a form should be treated as extremely suspect. If you do open an attached file and it loads a form in your browser that asks for your account username and password and/or identification information and financial data, back out fast! DO NOT proceed.

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,