Don't Lose Your Money To Phishers

University of Alberta employees are being targeted by phishers to purchase gift cards.

15 November 2018

"Are you there?" It's a straightforward question that many of us get asked by our colleagues daily, and its simplicity is why this hook is working for a recent phishing attempt targeting University of Alberta employees.

What to Know

Several university employees have reported receiving emails from what appears to be a colleague, but closer inspection reveals that even though the display name looks right, the email address does not match that person's UAlberta account.

The email often appears to come from a supervisor or authority figure, and begins with a simple, generic hook such as "are you there" or "are you available?" From there, the fraudster will build up the conversation, and ultimately ask you to purchase a gift card for them (from iTunes or Amazon for example), with the promise of repayment.

But, don't be fooled by this attempt, as you could be on the hook for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Don't Get Hooked! What to Look For

Buyer beware! These phishers are attempting to scam you by making their display name appear normal, which may get you hook, line and sinker. So if you sense something is suspicious, look closer and follow these steps to protect yourself:

  1. Don't trust the display name: Before you make any kind of investment, whether it be your time or finances, verify the sender's email address by hovering over the display name and ensuring that the correct UAlberta email address and business card appear.
  2. Check for spelling mistakes: These emails tend to have a variety of spelling and grammar mistakes that can be an easy clue to their illegitimacy.
  3. Go straight to the source: Call your colleague directly to confirm if they were in fact the sender before taking any action, or making any kind of financial decision.

What to Do Next

Don't fall victim to this attempt. If you are suspicious that you or someone you know may be subject to identify theft or fraud, learn more about what you can do to protect yourself from the RCMP.

Rest assured that receiving one of these emails will not compromise your UAlberta account in any way, nor does it mean that your colleague's account is compromised. If you have questions or issues, please contact IST at ist@ualberta.ca or 780-492-9400.

For more information on phishing and what you need to beware of, visit our phishing article.