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Coronavirus updates to keep our campus informed, safe and healthy.

How to Identify and Avoid Email Scams

Person typing on a computer

Email scams can be difficult to catch, as they appear harmless, have a friendly tone and may come with no links or attachments. They appear to be from someone you know - often a leader like a College Dean or a President - and ask you to disclose sensitive information, initiate a wire transfer or buy a gift card.

What will a scam look like?

A typical scam could include items like:

  • A doppelgänger - These scams use an email address that looks similar to an official address. Look beyond the name associated with the email. Watch for things like things like drjohndesteiguer01@gmail.com. Notice the “gmail” address rather than the official “oc.edu” address.
  • A hurried tone - Scammers may ask you to send money or buy a gift card immediately.
  • Email only - Since the scam relies on impersonating an employee with a fake but similar email address, text could include instructions not to call with questions but to only reply via email.

I received a message I think is spam. What should I do?

If you receive an email you suspect is a scam or if you are unsure of a message’s legitimacy:

  • Do not respond.
  • Mark the message as SPAM using Gmail’s SPAM feature.
  • Gmail often includes a SPAM warning. If you see the warning, assume the message is fake.
  • If in doubt, contact IT.

Remember, colleagues will not ask for personal information, passwords or money from you via email. If financial interests are involved, always rely on a direct conversation in person or via phone and never by text or email.

With a little vigilance and attention to detail, you can avoid falling for an an email scam.