Avoid being scammed by the fake "COVID-19 Relief Fund" email

Also Known As: Covid Phishing spam
Damage level: Medium

What is "Covid Phishing Scam Email"?

"Covid Phishing" refers to a phishing scam claiming that recipients have been randomly selected as beneficiaries of the "COVID-19 Relief Fund".

They can supposedly receive $155,000 (US dollars). In fact, this scheme extorts personal information from the recipients, which can be misused in various ways and lead to likewise varied and serious issues. Due to increased concerns over Coronavirus/COVID-19, scammers and cyber criminals have been incorporating the pandemic into their schemes.

Covid Phishing scam email spam campaign

The "Covid Phishing" scam informs recipients that they have been selected as beneficiaries of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Asia Foundation. While these foundations are legitimate, these deceptive messages are in no way connected to those organizations.

The email states that the partnered foundations have established a "COVID-19 Relief Fund" and they select beneficiaries at random. The message alleges that users can receive $US155,000 to help them cope with the coronavirus pandemic. This sum must be claimed within a week, otherwise it will pass to another individual.

To claim these funds, recipients are instructed to send their personal information (name, occupation, location and contact number) via email. All statements made in this message are false and trusting this email scam can result in serious issues.

For example, to supposedly transfer the promised funds, scammers can demand banking account and/or credit card details, which can then be misused to make fraudulent transactions, online purchases, and so on. Alternatively, users can be asked to make monetary transactions.

For example, to pay fake transfer, registration and other fees to receive the nonexistent relief funds. In summary, trusting the "Covid Phishing" email can lead to financial loss, serious privacy issues and even identity theft .

Threat Summary:
Name Covid Phishing Scam Email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud.
Fake Claim Scam claims recipients have been selected as beneficiaries of "COVID-19 Relief Fund".
Disguise Emails are disguised as mail from The Asia Foundation.
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)

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Deceptive/Scam emails are sent by the thousand during large scale operations called "spam campaigns". "COVID-19 pandemic is straining health systems worldwide", "COVID-19 Cases Surpassed 300,000", and "Infect Your Family With CoronaVirus" are scams similar to "Covid Phishing".

The messages are usually presented as "official", "important", "urgent" and similar. They are often disguised as mail from genuine foundations, organizations, institutions, companies, businesses, and so on.

These messages are commonly used for phishing, however, they might also be employed to proliferate Trojans, ransomware and other malware. Regardless of what these emails claim or demand, their purpose is the same: to generate revenue for the scammers/cyber criminals behind them.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

System infections are caused through malicious files sent via spam campaigns. These emails contain dangerous content as attachments and/or download links. Infectious files can be in various formats (e.g. archive and executable files, PDF and Microsoft Office documents, JavaScript, etc.).

When they are executed, run or otherwise opened, the infection process (i.e., malware download/installation) is triggered. For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. When opened, the documents ask users to enable macros (i.e., to enable editing/content), after which, the infection begins.

In Microsoft Office programs released before 2010, however, download/installation of malware is started automatically once an infectious document is opened.

How to avoid installation of malware

Suspicious or irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially those with any attachments or links present within them, as this can result in high-risk infection. Use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. These newer versions have "Protected View", which prevents malware download/installation when a dangerous document is opened.

Other popular proliferation methods for malicious programs include untrusted download channels (e.g. unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks and other third party downloaders), illegal activation ("cracking") tools and fake updaters.

Therefore, you are strongly advised to download from official/verified sources, and activate and update software with tools/functions provided by legitimate developers. To ensure device integrity and user safety, it is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed.

Furthermore, these programs must be kept up to date, used to run system scans and to remove detected/potential threats. 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 "Covid Phishing" scam email message:

Subject: Hello


This is to inform you that you have been randomly selected as one
of the beneficiaries of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's
"COVID-19 Relief Fund", in collaboration with The Asia
Foundation; which was setup to help business owners and
individuals during and after the corona virus pandemic.


You are to receive the sum of $155,000 USD (One Hundred and Fifty
Five Thousand USD).

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed substantial
resources to ensure that the after effects of this pandemic on
businesses and jobs are reduced to the barest minimum. They have
decided to partner with The Asia Foundation so as to reach
beneficiaries as far as Asia.


To claim this fund, kindly send the following details to this
email ( covid19.asiafoundation@citromail.hu ) address only:


Contact Number:


You have just 1 week to claim this offer or your slot will be
passed on to another person.


Sunder Ramaswamy
Chairman, The Asia Foundation

Appearance of a coronavirus (COVID-19)-related phishing site (covid-19research[.]co) promoted via one of these spam emails. The site asks for donations in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency:

covid-19research.co coronavirus phishing website

Screenshot of yet another Covid-19-related (Boeing-themed) scam email:

Covid-19 relating scam email promoting Boeing-themed phishing website

Text presented within:

747-400/-400ER Freighters

In support for COVID-19 transport mission, Boeing and our Atlas Air partners have released 32 B747F aircraft for immediate sale, charter and ACMI / dry lease.

Boeing is proud to be part of this historic flight to bring vital PPE to healthcare workers across the world.

Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun wants to ensure our frontline healthcare workers have the equipment they critically need.

Visit Boeing data room below to access specification sheet and request price for quote sale, charter and ACMI / dry lease.


Screenshot of a phishing website (boeingdataroom[.]online) promoted via this scam email:

Boeing-themed phishing website promoted via covid-19 relating scam emails

Yet another Covid-19-themed spam email used for phishing purposes (note that the cyber criminals also incorporated the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) name into this email, yet this agency has nothing to do with this spam email):

Covid-themed spam email used for phishing purposes

Text presented within:



NW WASHINGTON, D.C. 20535-0001

Christopher A. Wray


Our Ref: (Ref Vibe # FRS/019223/UN00155127/CONTRACT E/615AX).

To. Beneficiary:

We use this opportunity to confirm from you if really you have sent your Doctor as a representative. However, we received an email from one Dr. Mrs. Verani Bekti yesterday who told us that she is your private Doctor and next of kin and that you died of corona virus (COVID_19) recently. Her contact details:  Address: 110 Interglen Avenue, River Vale, New Jersey 07675. Beneficiary: Dr Mrs Verani Bekti. But from our findingwe could not find any death record of  you.
Please confirm to us immediately that you are alive.

Note that we are bound to recognize Dr. Mrs Verani Bekti's claim if you fail to promptly respond.
We decided to write to your email and if there is no reply of this message from you within 48 hrs it will be assumed that her information is correct then we shall work with your representative and do what she has requested.

An irrevocable payment guarantee has been issued by the United Nations (UN) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on your Payment. However, we are happy to inform you that based on our recommendation/Instructions you’re complete Compensation fund of USD$4,000,000.00 shall be released to you through a secured/certified mode of payment.

This payment is to help you fight COVID-19 and stand on you feet again for a better future.

CONTACT AGENT Aubrey Farrar Sr.

Best Regard,
Christopher A. Wray

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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.

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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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