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How to Identify and Avoid Email Scams

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 Notice the “gmail” address rather than the official “” 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.