Pay me or I’ll cough: Bad actors bully email recipients with new Covid-19 extortion scam

Cyber criminals hit a new low this month, proving once again that they’ll go to any lengths to extort their victims. This time around, it’s not just about ruining your reputation and disclosing a ‘dirty little secret’ to your friends and family. Scammers have gift-wrapped the traditional extortion email in a desperate attempt to make you pay up.

The bargaining chip

If old gimmicks don’t pay off, new phishing emails are leveraging the Coronavirus pandemic. How? The scammer demands payment in Bitcoin, or else he will infect your family members with Coronavirus. Seems like threat actors have transitioned to bioterrorism overnight, claiming that “No matter how smart you are, believe me, if I want to affect, I can.”

While this dare-devilish threat is false, their efforts show that some bad actors are struggling to make a buck amid the pandemic.

Bitdefender Labs has spotted a separate version of the Covid-19 extortion stunt, where the swindler posing as your neighbor claims to have been tested positive for the virus. In this petty dry run, the perp goes on to mention that he has just a week to live, and shows his contempt by asking you to transfer money to his Bitcoin wallet.

We know you have a lot on your plate this time, and while new versions of the scam are likely to turn up in the come weeks, rest assured that we are committed to fending off any such hoaxes that might end up in your Inbox. While we focus on protecting your devices from malware and phishing attacks, you can follow some easy but effective steps to stay safe while browsing the Internet:

Change your passwords periodically – passwords are the gateway to your account and your online persona. Regularly updating your login passwords for e-commerce websites and social media accounts can help keep you safe from account takeover attacks and identity theft. A guide on how to create a strong password can be found here.
Enable two- or multi-factor authentication – This gives your online accounts an extra layer of protection.
Ignore online offers promoting Coronavirus cures, home test kits or vaccinations –numerous fake ads have been shared on social media and other platforms that were quick to dupe consumers.
Don’t click on links or download files from untrusted sources – accessing unfamiliar links or downloading files on your devices may bring a malicious payload. It’s best to keep your browsing patterns limited to what’s closer to home.

We’re going to keep doing what we’ve always done – protecting you from malicious activity.

Stay Safe!

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