Campus vigilance: Protecting against evolving email scams

There has been a sudden increase in email phishing scams. Read more to find out how to protect yourself against these scams. Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich/Pexels.

Reports of potentially malicious emails circulating on the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut have increased in frequency compared to previous years. This surge in suspicious electronic communications has prompted heightened vigilance among both students and faculty. The Daily Campus conducted an interview with Michael Mundrane Ph.D., Vice president for information technology and chief information officer. During the interview, he offered valuable guidance on recognizing and dealing with scammers who target students. 

“Most environments have technology in place that traps many of these scam messages. Microsoft 365 for UConn likely has more aggressive filtering than Google, but scams constantly change specifically to try and get around spam detection in either environment. It is impossible to detect and remove all scam messages,” Mundrane said. 

He highlighted that scams can bypass any filtering technology, with a shift toward source-targeted attacks rather than computer-focused tactics. 

“I recently shared scam information with students. It was not to provide information about a specific scam but rather to educate readers about the general structure of all scams.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed,” Mundrane said. 

Mundrane sent an email to UConn students on Monday, Sept. 25, advising them on protecting against scams.”Each year, scams become more sophisticated, with many targeting students. Despite their evolution, scams follow common patterns and exhibit similar characteristics,” Mundrane said. 

The email included the following cautionary bullet points: 

“- Exercise caution if a communication doesn’t logically relate to your actions. 

– Beware of scammers posing as credible authorities, like government officials, university representatives, banks, or charities. Assess their authenticity and provide information. 

– Recognize scammers’ tactics to lower your guard and prevent critical thinking. It’s rarely necessary to share information or money in unsolicited interactions. Avoid hasty decisions.” 

Mundrane shared a personal experience where he received a call from his bank’s fraud detection department. He advised verifying information received independently by searching online to confirm its legitimacy. 

“I was approached by phone by fraud detection at my bank. I listened to the message and then immediately went to the bank website and called the fraud number,” Mundrane said. “Any information you receive, either directly in the message or associated with the message, can be searched online.  Information that you can validate independently is less suspicious than information that you cannot.” 

One prevalent scam among UConn students involves emails claiming that accounts are locked or about to close, creating a false sense of urgency to prompt students to click on links without critical evaluation. “The intention is for you to act now without thinking critically,” said Mundrane. “Microsoft 365 for UConn likely has more aggressive filtering than Google, but scams constantly change specifically to try and get around spam detection in either environment.” 

 In summary, Mundrane emphasized the importance of staying informed about evolving scam tactics and likened online interactions to meeting strangers on the street. 

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