Do not trust Delayed payment confirmation caused by the COVID-19 email scam

Also Known As: Delayed Payment Confirmation Caused By Covid-19 spam
Damage level: Severe

What is "Delayed payment confirmation caused by COVID-19"?

There is a has been a huge increase in malicious email scams during the current pandemic, most of which are coronavirus-themed. The cyber criminals behind them usually attempt to deceive visitors into transferring money, providing sensitive information, or installing malware.

This particular scam is sent to trick recipients into opening a malicious document, which then downloads a malicious file designed to install GuLoader.

Delayed payment confirmation caused by COVID-19 malware-spreading email spam campaign

This email is disguised as a message regarding a payment, which was apparently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recipients are encouraged to check the payment details that are provided in the attached document ("Payment_SWIFT.doc").

The file attached to this email is a malicious MS Office document, which, if allowed to enable macros commands (editing), downloads an executable file designed to infect the computer with GuLoader. GuLoader is malware employed to distribute various Remote Access Trojans (RATs) and stealers.

In most cases, RATs are used to download and install programs, manage files, read data from the keyboard (logging keystrokes), and hijack webcams and microphone. Typically, cyber criminals use these programs to infect computers with additional malware like ransomware, or access information, which could be used to generate revenue.

For example, credit card details, credentials (passwords, logins) of accounts, and other sensitive details. The data might be used to steal accounts and identities, make fraudulent purchases and transactions, etc. Usually, information stealers target banking-related details, passwords, logins, data saved onto the clipboard, and other information of this kind.

In this way, people are tricked into installing GuLoader and might have their computers infected with other malware, become victims of identity theft, suffer monetary loss, experience problems relating to online privacy, and other serious issues.

Therefore, you are strongly advised to ignore this and other similar emails (keep files attached to them or presented website links unopened).

Threat Summary:
Name Delayed Payment Confirmation Caused By Covid-19 spam
Threat Type Trojan, password-stealing virus, banking malware, spyware.
Hoax This email disguised as a message regarding a delayed payment confirmation.
Attachment(s) Payment_SWIFT.doc 
Detection Names (malicious executable downloaded by the malicious attachment) Avast (FileRepMalware), BitDefenderTheta (Gen:NN.ZevbaF.34106.nm0@aK7Vz8hi), ESET-NOD32 (A Variant Of Win32/Injector.ELOQ), Kaspersky (Backdoor.Win32.Androm.tzfh), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal).
Symptoms Trojans are designed to stealthily infiltrate the victim's computer and remain silent, and thus no particular symptoms are clearly visible on an infected machine.
Payload GuLoader 
Distribution methods Infected email attachments, malicious online advertisements, social engineering, software 'cracks'.
Damage Stolen passwords and banking information, identity theft, the victim's computer added to a botnet.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Some more examples of spam campaigns used to distribute malware are "HSBC Bank Covid-19 Update Email Virus", "COVID-19 Part Time Employment Email Virus" and "COVID 19 HELP DESK Email Virus". Typically, these emails contain a malicious attachment or link designed to download a malicious file that, when opened, installs malicious software.

Note that such emails are often disguised as important, official. Examples of malware that is distributed via spam campaigns are Agent Tesla, Tefosteal, TrickBot and PsiXBot.

How did "Delayed payment confirmation caused by COVID-19" infect my computer?

Installation of GuLoader is allowed when recipients open a malicious document named "Payment_SWIFT.doc" (its name might vary), enable macro commands/editing within it, and download a malicious executable file.

Other examples of files that cyber criminals use to distribute malware via emails include PDF documents, executables (.exe), archives (RAR, ZIP), and JavaScript files. None of these files can do any damage (install malware) if they remain unopened. The same applies to files downloaded from malicious pages via malicious links.

How to avoid installation of malware

Software and files should not be downloaded through third party downloaders, Peer-to-Peer networks (e.g., torrent clients, eMule), freeware download pages, unofficial sites or other channels of this kind. The same applies to installation through third party installers.

These channels can distribute malware. Software should be downloaded from official websites and via direct links. Attachments and website links in irrelevant emails that are received from unknown, suspicious addresses should not be opened. Installed software should be updated and activated (if necessary) with tools that are provided by official software developers.

Avoid third party tools. Furthermore, it is illegal to use 'cracking' to activate any licensed software. Scan your computer for threats regularly using reputable antivirus or anti-spyware software.

If you have already opened "Delayed payment confirmation caused by COVID-19" attachment, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "Delayed payment confirmation caused by the COVID-19" email message:

Subject: Delayed payment confirmation caused by COVID-19

Hello Dear,

I trust you are good!

About the payment for the last order,find attached payment confirmation document for your review.

We sincerely apologize for this delay as it was caused due to the current situation in our country caused by COVID-19.

Please kindly let us know once your receive the same amount in your bank.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,
Lisa Brown
Account Office

Malicious executable downloaded through a malicious document detected as a threat in VirusTotal:

delayed payment confirmation caused by covid 19 email virus malicious executable downloaded by malicious attachment

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced IT skills. Combo Cleaner is a professional automatic malware removal tool that is recommended to get rid of malware. Download it by clicking the button below:
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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.

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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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