Avoid getting scammed by fake "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)" emails

Also Known As: "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)" phishing email
Damage level: Medium

What kind of email is "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)"?

After looking over the "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)" email, we determined that it is spam. Specifically, this mail operates as a phishing scam that targets personally identifiable information. The letter we examined falsely claimed that the recipient had won fifty million dollars from a famous philanthropic organization. It must be stressed that this spam is in no way associated with any real individuals or entities.

Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) email spam campaign

"Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)" email scam overview

The spam email with the subject "Re: GOODNEWS; YOU WON 50 M I L L I O N D O L L A R S TODAY. REPLY IMMEDIATELY.." (may vary) states that the recipient's mail address has been selected as a winner. The recipient has won fifty million USD from the forty-five billion fund established by the "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative".

It must be emphasized that all these claims are false, and this mail is in no way associated with Facebook, Meta Platforms, spouses Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, or their organization – the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

The scam email requests that the recipient provide their information: name, age, sex, country of origin/ nationality, country of residence, and mobile phone number. Disclosing this sensitive data can result in severe privacy issues and even identity theft.

It is noteworthy that spam mail of this type may also ask victims to pay a variety of fake fees or taxes. This can be an excuse to acquire the victims' financial information, e.g., online bank log-in credentials, banking account details, credit card numbers, etc.

Cyber criminals use difficult-to-trace methods for acquiring funds, as that aids them in avoiding persecution and preventing victims from retrieving their money. Some of these methods include cryptocurrencies, gift cards, pre-paid vouchers, and cash hidden in innocent-looking packages and shipped.

If you have already disclosed your private information (e.g., ID card details, passport photos/scans, credit card numbers, etc.) – contact the appropriate authorities without delay.

If you believe that scammers have obtained your log-in credentials – immediately change the passwords of all possibly exposed accounts and inform their official support.

Threat Summary:
Name "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)" phishing email
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Recipient has won 50 million USD
Disguise Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)
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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Phishing spam campaign examples

"Account And Service(s) Scheduled For Deletion", "HR Department Shared A File With You", "A New Sign-in On Windows", "Bank Of America - Fund Transfer", and "A Payment Has Been Posted On Your Card" are just some examples of phishing emails we have investigated recently.

Aside from personally identifiable details, spam commonly targets log-in credentials (e.g., emails, social networking, social media, e-commerce, online banking, cryptowallets, etc.) and finance-related data. Furthermore, deceptive emails are used to spread malware.

While infamous for being riddled with errors, spam letters can be competently disguised as messages from genuine organizations, companies, institutions, service providers, authorities, and other entities.

Due to how prevalent spam mail is and how well-crafted it can be – we strongly recommend exercising caution with incoming emails, PMs/DMs, SMSes, and other messages.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Spam campaigns are widely used in malware proliferation. These emails/messages may include malicious files as attachments or download links. The files can be documents (Microsoft Office, Microsoft OneNote, PDF, etc.), executables (.exe, .run, etc.), archives (RAR, ZIP, etc.), JavaScript, and so on.

Once an infectious file is opened – the malware download/installation chain is initiated. However, some formats might need additional interaction to jumpstart system infection processes. For example, Microsoft Office files require users to enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content), while OneNote documents need them to click on embedded files or links.

How to avoid installation of malware?

It is essential to treat incoming emails and other messages with care. Attachments or links present in dubious mail must not be opened, as they can be virulent. We recommend using post-2010 Microsoft Office versions since their "Protected View" mode prevents automatic macro command execution.

It is noteworthy that malware is not proliferated exclusively via spam mail. Therefore, we advise being vigilant while browsing, as fraudulent and malicious online content usually appears genuine and innocuous.

Furthermore, all downloads must be performed from official and verified channels. Another recommendation is to activate and update programs using functions/tools provided by legitimate developers, as illegal activation ("cracking") tools and third-party updaters may contain malware.

It is paramount to have a reputable anti-virus installed and kept up-to-date. Security software must be 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 "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)" spam email letter:


Greetings to You

Reply To: chanandzuckerbergfoundation@hotmail.com

Hi Dear,

This is Mark Zuckerberg and I am the Founder/CEO of Facebook. Your e-mail address is the lucky winner of our foundation donation from the $45,000,000,000 (Forty Five Billion US Dollars) Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). I and my lovely wife Pricilla Chan as co-owners of the foundation are donating the sum of $50,000,000 (Fifty Million US Dollars) to you. This donation will enable you to help your loved ones and your community. The following information will be needed for you to claim the winning donation from our Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative.

Your Details:


2. AGE__





Kindly send above required details to Email: chanandzuckerbergfoundation@hotmail.com

Congratulations from the Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) team.


Mark & Pricilla Zuckerberg
Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)
Owners: Facebook, Meta.
Email: chanandzuckerbergfoundation@hotmail.com

Appearance of the "Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI)" spam email (GIF):

Chan & Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) scam email (GIF)

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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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why did I receive this email?

Spam emails are not personal. They are distributed in large-scale campaigns – therefore, thousands of users receive identical messages.

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

If you have provided your log-in credentials – change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts and inform their official support without delay. If you have disclosed other private data (e.g., ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) – immediately contact the corresponding authorities.

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

No, merely opening/reading an email is harmless. Devices are infected when malicious attachments or links are opened.

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

Whether the system was compromised might depend on the opened file's format. If it was an executable (.exe, .run, etc.) – most likely, yes. However, you might have avoided an infection if it was a document (.doc, .xls, .pdf, .one, etc.). These formats may need additional user interaction to jumpstart malware download/installation chains (e.g., enabling macro commands, clicking embedded content, etc.).

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?

Yes, Combo Cleaner is capable of detecting and eliminating practically all known malware infections. Note that performing a complete system scan is key – since sophisticated malicious programs tend to hide deep within systems.

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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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About PCrisk

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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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