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Avoid getting scammed by the "UN Covid-19 stimulus package" emails

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is "UN Covid-19 stimulus package Email Scam"?

"UN Covid-19 stimulus package Email Scam" refers to a spam campaign - a mass-scale operation during which thousands of deceptive emails are sent. The letters distributed through this campaign - claim that recipients have been selected to receive a COVID-19 stimulus package worth 1,5 million USD from the United Nations (UN).

It must be emphasized that all of the information provided by these letters is false. The "UN Covid-19 stimulus package" spam campaign operates as a phishing scam, which targets personally identifiable data.

UN Covid-19 stimulus package email spam campaign

"UN Covid-19 stimulus package" scam email in detail

The "UN Covid-19 stimulus package" scam emails (subject/title "CONGRATULATIONS!!"; may vary) introduce the sender as a regional secretary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recipients are informed that they have been selected to receive a " COVID-19 stimulus package".

This is allegedly a part of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund established by the United Nations (UN). The fake "stimulus package" is supposedly worth 1,500,000.00 USD. The deceptive letters go into details about the fund and the stimulus program.

Afterwards, the emails urge recipients to contact a Response and Recovery Fund Coordinator and Grants Manager to claim the stimulus. Additionally, the scam letters request the following information to be provided: full name, address, nationality, country of birth, age, occupation, marital status, and telephone number.

How do phishing scams operate?

Phishing scams work by extracting private and vulnerable information from their victims. In case of the "UN Covid-19 stimulus package" spam campaign, the targeted data is of a personally identifiable nature. All scams aim to generate revenue at their victims' expense.

The information obtained through phishing can be monetized by being sold to third-parties (potentially, cyber criminals) and/or used to further personalized schemes. It is noteworthy that scams that offer rewards (e.g., stimulus packages, lottery prizes, etc.) often request victims to make relatively small payments.

For example, users may be asked to pay bogus transaction, registration, or similar fees. In addition to this direct financial loss, victims may inadvertently expose their financial data (e.g., banking account and credit card details, etc.). This can occur when users pay via dubious payment gateways per the scammers' request. To summarize, by trusting these scam emails, users can experience severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft.

Threat Summary:
Name UN Covid-19 stimulus package Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Emails claim that recipients are eligible to receive a stimulus package worth 1,5 million USD
Disguise Scam emails are disguised as letters from the UN and CDC
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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Spam campaigns in general

"CMA CGM Email Scam", "Process the order attached", "Lidl Email Scam", and "RingCentral Email Scam" are some examples of phishing spam campaigns. Typically, scammers target personally identifiable details, finance-related data, and log-in credentials (i.e., usernames, and passwords) of various accounts.

However, spam mail is not used exclusively for phishing and other scams; these deceptive letters also proliferate malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, cryptocurrency miners, etc.). Due to how widespread scam mail is, it is strongly advised to exercise caution with incoming emails.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Systems are infected via malicious files distributed through spam campaigns. These files can be attached to the emails and/or linked inside them. Virulent files can be in various formats, e.g., Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archives, executables, JavaScript, and so forth.

When the files are executed, run, or otherwise opened - the infection chain (i.e., malware download/installation) is triggered. For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands.

This process begins the moment a document is opened in Microsoft Office version released before 2010. Newer versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic execution of macros. Instead, users can manually enable editing/content (i.e., macro commands).

How to avoid installation of malware?

Suspicious and irrelevant emails must not be opened, especially any attachments or links present in them. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010. Aside from spam mail, malware is also proliferated via dubious download channels (e.g., unofficial and free file-hosting sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), illegal activation tools ("cracks"), and fake updates.

Therefore, it is important to download only from official and verified sources. Additionally, all programs must be activated and updated with tools/functions provided by genuine developers.

It is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus/anti-spyware suite installed, kept updated, used to run regular system scans and to remove detected threats. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Text presented in the "UN Covid-19 stimulus package" scam email letter:

Subject: CONGRATULATIONS!!


Dear E-mail Beneficiary,

 

In the wake of the global COVID-19 Pandemic, I wish to bring you the
good news of hope. I am Dr.BEN GIBSON, Regional Secretary of
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I write to officially inform
you that you have been selected to receive the UN Covid-19 stimulus
package worth US $ 1,500,000.00 USD (One Million Five Hundred Thousand
United States Dollars). PLEASE CLICK ON THE ATTACH FILE TO VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE CHEQUE ISSUED TO YOU.
The selection process was carried out through
the United Nations (UN) computerized email selection system, from a
database of over 79,980,000 email addresses obtained from all continents
of the world, which your email address was selected among other lucky
ones.
The United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund is a UN
inter-agency fund mechanism established by the UN Secretary-General to
help support low- and middle-income persons to respond to the pandemic
and its impacts, including an unprecedented socio-economic shock. The
Fund's assistance targets those most-vulnerable to economic hardship and
social disruption around the world.

 

We are delighted to inform you that due to mixed up of names and
numbers, your email attached to approved number UN6MM48321 / COVID-19 / UA,
which consequently fall on our International Chapter in UKRAINE (central Europe).
therefore, you are advised to contact the United Nations COVID-19
Response and Recovery Fund Coordinator and Grants Manager in UKRAINE (DR. ANDRE WALTER), to claim your $ 1,500,000.00 USD (One
Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) without any delay.

 

Name: DR. ANDRE WALTER
Email: andrewalter@seznam.cz
Reference / Approved No .: UN6MM48321 / COVID-19 / UA

 

Confirm the following information as soon as possible.

 

1. Your Full Names.
2. Your Address.
3. Nationality.
4. Direct Telephone #.
5. Country of Origin.
6. Occupation.
7. Age.
8. Marital Status.

 

Note: it's in your hands to stop the spread of COVID-19. United Nation's
advises to follow the guidelines of the scientific community.

 

(1) Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water, or an
alcohol based solution.
(2) Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
(3) Practice social distancing. Reduce social activity and, if you
really need to meet someone, maintain a 2-meter (6-foot) distance
between the two of you.

 

Congratulations once again.

 

Yours Sincerely


Dr. BEN GIBSON
Regional Secretary
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Appearance of the "UN Covid-19 stimulus package" scam email (GIF):

UN Covid-19 stimulus package scam email appearance (GIF)

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How to remove malware manually?

Manual malware removal is a complicated task - usually it is best to allow antivirus or anti-malware programs to do this automatically. To remove this malware we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

If you wish to remove malware manually, the first step is to identify the name of the malware that you are trying to remove. Here is an example of a suspicious program running on a user's computer:

malicious process running on user's computer sample

If you checked the list of programs running on your computer, for example, using task manager, and identified a program that looks suspicious, you should continue with these steps:

manual malware removal step 1Download a program called Autoruns. This program shows auto-start applications, Registry, and file system locations:

screenshot of autoruns application

manual malware removal step 2Restart your computer into Safe Mode:

Windows XP and Windows 7 users: Start your computer in Safe Mode. Click Start, click Shut Down, click Restart, click OK. During your computer start process, press the F8 key on your keyboard multiple times until you see the Windows Advanced Option menu, and then select Safe Mode with Networking from the list.

Safe Mode with Networking

Video showing how to start Windows 7 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 8 users: Start Windows 8 is Safe Mode with Networking - Go to Windows 8 Start Screen, type Advanced, in the search results select Settings. Click Advanced startup options, in the opened "General PC Settings" window, select Advanced startup.

Click the "Restart now" button. Your computer will now restart into the "Advanced Startup options menu". Click the "Troubleshoot" button, and then click the "Advanced options" button. In the advanced option screen, click "Startup settings".

Click the "Restart" button. Your PC will restart into the Startup Settings screen. Press F5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking.

Windows 8 Safe Mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 8 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

Windows 10 users: Click the Windows logo and select the Power icon. In the opened menu click "Restart" while holding "Shift" button on your keyboard. In the "choose an option" window click on the "Troubleshoot", next select "Advanced options".

In the advanced options menu select "Startup Settings" and click on the "Restart" button. In the following window you should click the "F5" button on your keyboard. This will restart your operating system in safe mode with networking.

windows 10 safe mode with networking

Video showing how to start Windows 10 in "Safe Mode with Networking":

manual malware removal step 3Extract the downloaded archive and run the Autoruns.exe file.

extract autoruns.zip and run autoruns.exe

manual malware removal step 4In the Autoruns application, click "Options" at the top and uncheck "Hide Empty Locations" and "Hide Windows Entries" options. After this procedure, click the "Refresh" icon.

Click 'Options' at the top and uncheck 'Hide Empty Locations' and 'Hide Windows Entries' options

manual malware removal step 5Check the list provided by the Autoruns application and locate the malware file that you want to eliminate.

You should write down its full path and name. Note that some malware hides process names under legitimate Windows process names. At this stage, it is very important to avoid removing system files. After you locate the suspicious program you wish to remove, right click your mouse over its name and choose "Delete".

locate the malware file you want to remove

After removing the malware through the Autoruns application (this ensures that the malware will not run automatically on the next system startup), you should search for the malware name on your computer. Be sure to enable hidden files and folders before proceeding. If you find the filename of the malware, be sure to remove it.

searching for malware file on your computer

Reboot your computer in normal mode. Following these steps should remove any malware from your computer. Note that manual threat removal requires advanced computer skills. If you do not have these skills, leave malware removal to antivirus and anti-malware programs.

These steps might not work with advanced malware infections. As always it is best to prevent infection than try to remove malware later. To keep your computer safe, install the latest operating system updates and use antivirus software. To be sure your computer is free of malware infections, we recommend scanning it with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.

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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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