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Watch Out For United Nations COVID-19 Compensation Email Scams

Several COVID-19-related scams continue to tease internet users into believing they are about to receive a large sum on behalf of non-existent United Nations programs, Bitdefender Antispam Lab has learned.

In all versions of the scam, recipients are told they will get the funds after the necessary arrangements are made with the beneficiary that, of course, will need to provide his or her personal and financial information.

Even if recipients are not asked to contribute financially in the initial email, as soon as they reply to the correspondence, scammers will make up reasons for why they can’t send the money. At first, they might ask for a small amount to cover taxes and insurance fees, for example. The fraudsters will continue to ask for money as long as the recipient is willing to pay for the so-called reward or compensation.

COVID-19 version of the Nigerian email scam

In this version of the scam, recipients are contacted by a Cash and Payment Coordinator working with the United Nations, tasked with compensating individuals affected by the pandemic. You are one of the lucky 10 chosen beneficiaries who will receive a whopping 1 million dollars. There’s a catch, though.

“We shall share the money 50/50%. [ie] 50% percent for you and 50% me. All I need is your trust that you will keep my share of the money safe,” the scammer says.

He even tries to explain the reason behind your selection. “I contacted you because we are not related and you are not my known friend, no one will suspect me you are included as a beneficiary, because we are not related. If you are interested.”

A sample of the scam letter can be seen below:

$2.5 million coming soon at an ATM near you

In another version, the fraudsters try to trick recipients into thinking they somehow forgot about their COVID-19 compensation fund of $2.5 million, delayed due to payment processing issues. Luckily, the creditor was keen to remind you of this small fortune, conveniently freed from “Confiscation” just for you.

“So we hereby inform you about the ongoing process for your total fund payment, which has been converted to an ATM Card to free it from Confiscation, and all necessary arrangement over the ATM has been granted on your favor for your payment through our office ATM Card Department,” the fraudulent email reads.

Suppose the beneficiary can’t travel to the office, in Madrid, to complete formalities due to COVID-19 restrictions. In that case, the target is assured that he can withdraw the amount from any ATM.

He simply needs to send his full name, home address, mobile phone, and a copy of his ID to the bank’s credit department.

A sample of the scam can be seen below:

Even if these scams seem uncomplicated and easy to avoid, they still plague the digital world – because they work. Scammers know that the pandemic has left millions in financial hardship, and no matter how preposterous these fraudulent emails may seem, some unsuspecting users fall victim.

If you receive similar emails, delete the message. Do not reply to the sender or provide your personal and financial information.

About the author

Alina Bizga

Alina has been a part of the Bitdefender family for some years now, as her past role involved interfacing with end users and partners, advocating Bitdefender technologies and solutions. She is a history buff and passionate about cybersecurity and anything sci-fi. Her spare time is usually split between her two feline friends and traveling.

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