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COVID-19 Themed BEC Scams

Business email compromise (BEC) also known as CEO fraud has undoubtedly become the biggest Internet scam of all time, claiming losses of over USD $26 billion since 2013. In such attacks, a fraudster impersonates an executive to trick individuals in the organization into sending money or sensitive information. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has wreaked havoc, locking down countries and borders and bringing global economies to a halt leading to unprecedented financial losses.

Email scammers are well known to quickly adapt to major global news themes and use them to circulate eye-catchy spam lures. BEC scammers are no different, they recently started to integrate Corona (COVID-19) pandemic themed messages in their email lures. We observed these messages targeting corporate executives and employees.

Here is an account of some Corona (COVID-19) themed BEC messages that we recently observed and detected. Please note that all names and email addresses used in the BEC examples are fictional to protect true identities.

BEC-COVID Gift card scam:

We have blogged about the BEC gift card scams in the past. This is a COVID-19 themed variant of the same.

CharlieFigure 1: iTunes or Walmart Gift card demanded by scammer due to Corona self-isolation


BEC-COVID Wire Transfer Scam:

We have blogged about BEC wire transfer scams in the past. This is a COVID-19 themed variant of the same.

TonystarkFigure 2: A shameless BEC scam message from an impersonated CEO, ordering corporate accountants to set up a wire transfer for COVID-19 medical support.


PepperpottsFigure 3: BEC wire scam message from impersonated CEO with a prayer for employee's safety during the pandemic and demand to make transactions against invoice.


BEC-COVID Payroll Scam:

We have blogged about BEC Payroll scams in the past. Here is a COVID-19 variant of the same.

DimitrivFigure 4: BEC payroll scam message demanding payroll bank account change due to the pandemic


ClarkkentFigure 5: Another BEC payroll scam message, this time with a prayer about the pandemic in the postscript of the message.


BEC-COVID Assistance in a confidential legal matter:

We have blogged about such scams in the past. This is a COVID-19 variant of the same.

Bruce-willFigure 6: BEC message from impersonated CEO asking an employee to comply with a confidential legal matter discretely by providing necessary information to the company lawyer



Scammers will use any possible means to lure victims over email. The fact that a company email is associated with a real corporate user, who could be prone to trickery, makes it a lucrative target. BEC scammers recently capitalized on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and combined it with BEC scam impersonation techniques, as a perfect combo to lure and trick users into sending money or gift cards to the scammers.

Trustwave Secure Email Gateway detects such BEC scams. We encourage customers to ensure that they have properly configured the BEC Filter layers in the product for maximum protection against this menace.