Phishing Scams

What is phishing?

Phishing is a cyber crime where someone misrepresents themselves to look like a legitimate company or organization, such as your bank, the IRS, or even Elon University. They try to trick you into providing your personal information, such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers, credit card information, and bank account information.

The communication to a user typically comes in the form of an email or instant message that directs the user to a website that has a similar look and feel to the legitimate site. Some of these phishing scams are very convincing. They say things like, "your account will be disabled unless you verify your account information." They may even look like they come from your bank or Elon Campus Technologies.

Tips for avoiding phishing scams

  • Never respond to messages that ask you for your email username or password.
  • Never respond to messages that ask you to verify, update, or validate information the organization should already have.
  • Before you share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization.
  • Don't reply, click on links, or call phone numbers provided in the message.
  • If you are ever unsure whether an email is legitimate, DO NOT RESPOND to it. Instead, contact the Technology Service Desk at 336.278.5200 and ask for advice.
  • Delete the message.

Tips for detecting a phishing scam

There are several ways to detect a phishing scam. Look for some of these reasons to be suspect.

Phishing Scam Examples Reasons to be suspect

  • Contains an anonymous greeting and is not tailored with your name.
  • Contains grammatical errors and non-fluent English.
  • Contains suspicious links that are not linked to an Elon web address (www.elon.edu/___).
  • Contains a signature that does not include anything about Campus Technologies, the Technology Service Desk, or x5200.

  • Appears to be from the Federal Reserve. No reputable organization will ever send you an email asking you to provide information via email.
  • Is unexpected, since I did not request a wire transfer.
  • Contains grammatical errors.
  • Contains suspicious links.

Ramifications

Every time an Elon faculty or staff member responds to a phishing scam, our systems are flooded with spam, potentially causing a complete shut down of our systems. When clients respond to a phishing scam, spammers use Elon email accounts to send SPAM. This causes our email server to fill up quickly and our staff must expend already limited resources to track, and recover from the SPAM storm. Also, outside email service providers such as RoadRunner, Yahoo, and Google may place Elon on a blacklist for 4 days as a way to defend their own clients from the SPAM generated by compromised Elon accounts. When we are blacklisted, no email, legitimate or otherwise, from elon.edu will get through to any email account on those service providers.

Additional resources

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