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Avoid losing your email account via fake "Covid-19 stimulus payment" emails

Also Known As: possible malware infections
Damage level: Medium

What is "Covid-19 stimulus payment Email Scam"?

"Covid-19 stimulus payment Email Scam" refers to a spam campaign. These scam emails claim to contain the receipt of a COVID-19 stimulus payment. Instead, the fake letters have a phishing file attached to them. This attachment attempts to trick users into disclosing their email account log-in credentials.

Covid-19 stimulus payment email spam campaign

"Covid-19 stimulus payment Email Scam" in detail

The scam emails claim that the Covid-19 stimulus payment was completed and request confirmation that the receipt has been received. When users open the attachment, it displays a message stating that the log-in session has expired and instructs them to sign in again.

Log-in credentials (passwords) entered into this file will be disclosed to the scammers behind the spam campaign. This information will allow the criminals to steal the exposed email accounts and potentially cause a variety of damage.

Emails are typically connected to (e.g., used to register) other accounts, platforms, services, and so on. Therefore, through hijacked emails - control may be gained over the content associated with them.

For example, stolen social accounts (e.g., emails, social networking, messengers, etc.) can be used to distribute malware by sharing malicious files and links. Scammers can also use these platforms to steal the owner's identity and ask their contacts for loans. Finance-related accounts (e.g., online banking, e-commerce, etc.) can be used to make fraudulent transactions and/or online purchases.

To summarize, by trusting these "Covid-19 stimulus payment" emails, users can experience severe privacy issues, financial losses, and identity theft. If attempts to sign in through the phishing file have already been made, it is crucial to change the log-in credentials of all potentially compromised accounts and contact their official support.

Threat Summary:
Name Covid-19 stimulus payment Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Scam emails claim to contain a COVID-19 stimulus payment receipt.
Attachment(s) Payment.Reciept.1111333.html (filename may vary)
Detection Names (attachment) Avast (Other:SNH-gen [Phish]), Combo Cleaner (Trojan.Script.GenericKDZ.3438), DrWeb (HTML.FishForm.205), Fortinet (HTML/Agent.BQL!tr), MAX (Malware (ai Score=88)), Full List Of Detections (VirusTotal)
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)

To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
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Spam campaigns in general

"Office 365 Email Scam", "New mail server system 4.0", "UN Covid-19 stimulus package", and "Lidl email scam" are a couple examples of phishing spam campaigns.

The letters distributed through these massive operations are not used exclusively for phishing, they are also employed to facilitate other scams and to proliferate malware (e.g., trojans, ransomware, etc.). Due to how widespread spam mail is, it is highly recommended to exercise caution with incoming emails and messages.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam emails can contain malicious files as attachments or download links. These files can be Microsoft Office and PDF documents, archives, executables, JavaScript, etc. When virulent files are opened - malware download/installation is initiated.

For example, Microsoft Office documents infect systems by executing malicious macro commands. This process starts when a document is opened in Microsoft Office versions released prior to 2010. Later versions have "Protected View" mode that prevents automatic macro execution. Users can manually enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content). It is noteworthy that infectious documents often contain deceptive messages intended to trick users into doing so.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Suspicious and irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially any attachments or links found in them - as they are origins of potential system infections. It is advised to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.

Aside from spam mail, malware is proliferated via dubious download sources (e.g., Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, unofficial and freeware sites, etc.), software ("cracking") tools, and fake updates. Therefore, it is recommended to download from official/verified sources and activate/update programs with tools provided by genuine developers.

It is paramount to have a dependable anti-virus installed and updated. This software has to be used to perform regular system scans and to remove 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 "Covid-19 stimulus payment" scam email letter:

Subject: RE: RE :[EXTERNAL STATEMENT] FW: Receipt Summary

 

FYI

-

Covid-19 stimulus payment complete as instructed.

 

Kindly confirm receipt of payment

 

Regards   
Cahill- Accounts

Screenshot of the phishing file distributed through the "Covid-19 stimulus payment" spam campaign ("Payment.Reciept.1111333.html"):

Covid-19 stimulus payment scam email phishing attachment (Payment.Reciept.1111333.html)

Instant automatic malware removal: Manual threat removal might be a lengthy and complicated process that requires advanced computer 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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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:

Malware process running in the Task Manager

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:

Autoruns application appearance

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.

Run Windows 7 or Windows XP in 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.

Run Windows 8 in 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.

Run Windows 10 in 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 archive and run Autoruns.exe application

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.

Refresh Autoruns application results

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".

Delete malware in Autoruns

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.

Search for malware and delete it

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why did I receive this email?

Spam emails are not personal; they are sent in large numbers in mass-scale operations.

I have provided my personal information when tricked by this spam email, what should I do?

If you've disclosed account credentials - immediately change the passwords of all possibly exposed accounts and contact their official support. If you've provided other personal information (e.g., ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) - contact the relevant authorities without delay.

I have read a spam email but didn't open the attachment, is my computer infected?

Infections are triggered when the attachments or links in spam emails are opened/clicked; reading the emails themselves does not pose such a threat.

I have downloaded and opened a file attached to a spam email, is my computer infected?

Whether a system infection occurred depends on the file's format and purpose. In case of the file attached to the "Covid-19 stimulus payment" spam email - it is intended to trick users into disclosing their email account passwords. This file is not designed to trigger malware download/installation, it is a phishing file.

However, the files promoted through spam campaigns are often malicious. Executable files begin infection processes upon being opened; while other formats, such as documents (e.g., .pdf, .doc, etc.) - might require additional actions to trigger such chains.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner can detect and eliminate almost all known malware infections. Note that running a full system scan is crucial, as high-end malicious software tends to hide deep in the system.

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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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