What is Phishing?

Phishing refers to different types of online scams that ‘phish’ for your personal and financial information (e.g., your passwords, Social Security Number, bank account information, credit card numbers, or other personal information).

These messages claim to come from a legitimate source: a well-known software company, online payment service, bank, or other reputable institution. Some will use an organization’s email address, logo, and other trademarks to fake authenticity.

The message or phone call usually asks you to provide, update, or verify your password or account, make a payment, or consider a necessary purchase. More recent scams involve fake anti-virus software or malware protection software (e.g., Banker.BOT).

In addition to email, Internet fraudsters use pop-up windows, text messages, and even phone calls to trick you into giving away your personal information.

Signs of phishing include:

  • Ultimatum: An urgent warning attempts to intimidate you into responding without thinking. ‘Warning! You will lose your email permanently unless you respond within 7 days’.
  • Impersonal greeting: Some phishing messages use a general salutation (‘Dear University Email Owner’) or an incorrect version of your name, but more sophisticated scams will even spell your name correctly.
  • Spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors: Most messages will include some mistakes. ‘Email owner that refuses to update his or her Email, within Seven days’
  • No signature or contact information: Additional contact information is not provided.

For more information, see OnGuard Online Topics: Phishing.

What are the risks of opening a phishing e-mail?

Opening, replying, or clicking the links provided in these emails poses a serious security risk to you and the campus network.

Some of the risks involved are:

  • Identity Theft: Once you provide your personal information in response to a phishing attempt, this information can be used to access your financial accounts, make purchases, or secure loans in your name.
  • Virus Infections: Some fraudulent emails include links or attachments that, once clicked, download malicious software to your computer. Others may also install keystroke loggers that record your computer activity.