With increasingly sophisticated e-mail "scams" continually being reported on campus, Public Safety and ITS would like to remind the campus community to be extremely cautious with regard to unsolicited e-mail messages that offer business or investment opportunities or that ask for any kind of personal or financial information.
Unwary people who respond to such messages may become victims of identity theft or suffer significant financial loss.
One of the more popular scams is the Nigerian-based "Advance Fee Fraud," which claims that you can earn a substantial sum of money in exchange for helping to transfer millions of dollars to a U.S. bank account. Another recent e-mail scam claims that you are entitled to a large inheritance as you may be the only surviving relative of a wealthy family from a foreign country that has recently died in a car accident. Yet another popular theme in scam e-mails is the request for personal, financial, or account information related to online services such as PayPal.
These e-mail messages often have a very official appearance through the use of recognizable "from" addresses, look-alike corporate logos, and links to authentic-looking web pages. As the old adage says, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
An e-mail message with any of the following characteristics should be treated as highly suspicious:
- Messages addressed to "Dear 'madam'," "sir," or "subscriber" instead of you personally are suspect. A legitimate company that you do business with will normally use your name in the salutation
- Unsolicited messages requesting any kind of personal information are probably bogus. A legitimate company is very unlikely to request such information via e-mail.
- Messages that are vague or cryptic but that include attachments, passwords, instructions, or links to web pages should be deleted unless you have specific, highly reliable information to the contrary.
- The use of all caps, spelling mistakes, or poor grammar is unlikely to come from a legitimate company.
If you receive a message that has even the slightest indication that it might not be legitimate, always err on the side of caution and either delete it or investigate further before replying or clicking on any links in the message. The "too good to be true" type messages should simply be deleted and ignored. Messages requesting personal information should be verified by contacting the company cited in the e-mail via a telephone number or website address you know to be genuine (such as one shown on a billing statement).
The following websites are good sources for additional information about e-mail scams and other Internet tips:
Contributed by Karen Sunderland