Information Security: Scams and Phishing

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"Telltail" Signs of Phishing

To safeguard your personal and financial information, be cautious when responding to email requests.  "Phishing" is the process of trying to acquire sensitive information (i.e.: usernames, passwords, credit card information, etc.) by masquerading as a trustworthy source in an electronic communication (i.e.: email or instant messaging). Phishing is one of the most popular methods employed by scammers to obtain your sensitive information.  The scammer offers to provide money or a service upon the receipt of your personal information.


Look for the following "telltale" signs of phishing:

  1. Email that asks for sensitive information (account number, SSN, credit card numbers, etc). Financial institutions and businesses that you have dealings with would never send you email to verify your account.
  2. Unusually long and incoherent URL. The address bar should make sense, and should explicitly indicate the site being visited. Often, phishing emails will ask you to click a link included in the body of the email.
  3. Phishing emails usually have typographical and grammatical errors. However, it's also wrong to assume that a professionally crafted email/site can never be a phishing email/site.


Images icon alert.jpg No one officially connected to Cal Poly Pomona will email you asking for any of the following sensitive information:

  • BroncoPassword or Passphrase
  • Social Security Number
  • Bank or Debit Card Information
  • Pin Number
  • Credit Card Information
  • Date of Birth
  • Driver’s License Number/ State ID Card (Any Other Forms of National or International Identification)
  • Home Address
  • Mother’s Maiden Name
  • Nationality
  • Medical History
  • Criminal History
  • Psychological Counseling Records
  • Etc.

The above list of sensitive information is not exhaustive.

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Recent Phishing Examples that Purport to be from Cal Poly Pomona

Example: Subject: Re:Urgent:-Important Maintainance--

Scam Overview:

Email title: Re:Urgent:-Important Maintainance--
Scam target: Cal Poly Pomona Students, Faculty and Staff
Email sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2015 1:11 AM
Sender: Unknown
Scam objective: Obtain Cal Poly Pomona BroncoName, BroncoPassword, etc.
Phish link method: Click link
Is link masked? Yes
Visible link text: Click here
Actual link to: Identity thieves' website


An email asking you to view your Cal Poly Pomona email account can look convincing. However, upon closer inspection, note the inconsistencies in punctuation and grammar.

  1. If you mouse-over the sender's email address (without clicking on it, note that it is not a Cal Poly Pomona email address.
  2. Note the punctuation errors of the the subject heading and the first sentence.
  3. Note the unusual greeting (the recipient's email address has been inserted in place of his/her name). Vague or anonymous salutations should raise suspicion. Anonymous and vague greetings are characteristic of scams.
  4. Note the awkward grammar throughout the email.
  5. Note the punctuation error of the closing.
  6. Note the incorrect formatting of the closing.
  7. Note that the message was signed by no one specific. Unidentifiable and/or anonymous senders should raise suspicion.


Images lightbulb.jpg Remember, no one officially connected to Cal Poly Pomona will email, asking for any sensitive information.

-----Original Message-----
From: Help Desk <mailto:bob@psada.org>
To: <Name has been removed> Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2015 1:11 AM
Subject: Re:Urgent:-Important Maintainance--

Dear <name has been removed>@csupomona.edu,

In regards to the ongoing maintainance. Some of your important messages were queued on our mail server. Please Click here to view or download your pending messages.

Some maintenance may still be undergoing for large improvement updates that will increase our security.

Please Note: To avoid any complication, it is madatory you follow the instructions above.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation,
--IT Support Team


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Example: Subject: IT SERVICE: WEBMAIL ACCOUNT SECURITY ALERT. (FINAL WARNIING)

Scam Overview:

Email title: IT SERVICE: WEBMAIL ACCOUNT SECURITY ALERT. (FINAL WARNIING)
Scam target: Cal Poly Pomona Students, Faculty and Staff
Email sent: Friday, September 05, 2014 9:42 AM
Sender: Unknown; Alias: Jeanette Cheetham
Scam objective: Obtain Cal Poly Pomona BroncoName, BroncoPassword, etc.
Phish link method: Click link
Is link masked? Yes
Visible link text: https://exchange.csupomona.edu/exchange/verify
Actual link to: Identity thieves' website


An email asking you to validate your Cal Poly Pomona email account can look convincing. However, upon closer inspection, note the inconsistencies in capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

  1. Note the sender's email address is not a Cal Poly Pomona email address.
  2. Note the recipient's name and email address are not a valid Cal Poly Pomona email account.
  3. Note the time in which the email was sent. The email was actually received in the morning. However, it states that it has been sent the same day in the late afternoon.
  4. Note the vague greeting. Vague or anonymous salutations should raise suspicion. Anonymous and vague greetings are characteristic of scams.
  5. Note the capitalization mistake of the email.
  6. Note the grammatical and spelling mistakes in the email.
  7. Note that the overall email is not written in American English.
  8. Note that the message was signed by no one specific. Unidentifiable and/or anonymous senders should raise suspicion.


Images lightbulb.jpg Remember, no one officially connected to Cal Poly Pomona will email, asking for any sensitive information.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeanette Cheetham
To: Jeanette Cheetham
Sent: Friday, September 05, 2014 5:38 PM
Subject: IT SERVICE: WEBMAIL ACCOUNT SECURITY ALERT. (FINAL WARNIING)

Dear Webmail User,

An Attempt has been made to log into your mail account from a new computer. For the security of your account, we are poised to open a query. Kindly click the https://exchange.csupomona.edu/exchange/verify log in to verify your location. Do not ignore this message to avoid termination of your web account.

Web Administrator
IT SERVICE
(c) 2014


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Example: Subject: FACULTY / STAFF HELP DESK WARNING

Scam Overview:

Email title: FACULTY / STAFF HELP DESK WARNING
Scam target: Cal Poly Pomona Students, Faculty and Staff
Email sent: Friday, May 09, 2014 5:54 AM
Sender: Unknown; Alias: Juarez, Alberto Jr.
Scam objective: Obtain Cal Poly Pomona BroncoName, BroncoPassword, etc.
Phish link method: Click link
Is link masked? Yes
Visible link text: Re-Validate Your Mail Box Quota
Actual link to: Identity thieves' website


An email asking you to validate/restore your Cal Poly Pomona email account can look convincing. However, upon closer inspection, note the inconsistencies in capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

  1. Note the sender's email address is not a Cal Poly Pomona email address.
  2. Note the recipient's name and email address are not a valid Cal Poly Pomona email account.
  3. Note the vague greeting. Vague or anonymous salutations should raise suspicion. Anonymous and vague greetings are characteristic of scams.
  4. Note overall formatting errors of the email.
  5. Note the overall awkward and incorrect grammar of the email.
  6. Note the incorrect punctuation of the third sentence, fourth sentence and the closing.
  7. Note that the message was signed by no one specific. Unidentifiable and/or anonymous senders should raise suspicion.


Images lightbulb.jpg Remember, no one officially connected to Cal Poly Pomona will email, asking for any sensitive information.

-----Original Message-----
From: Juarez, Alberto Jr.
To: Juarez, Alberto Jr.
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2014 5:54 AM
Subject: FACULTY / STAFF HELP DESK WARNING
Your inbox has almost exceeded its storage limit. It will not be able to send and receive e-mails if exceeded it limit and your e-mail account will be SUSPENDED from our server. To avoid this problem, you need to Re-validate you mail box quota

Re-Validate Your Mail Box Quota

If we do not receive any reply from you within 24 hours your mailbox will be SUSPENDED.

Thank you. Admin Help Desk Administrator


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Tips - How to Avoid Being "Hooked"

  1. Carefully review any email asking for personal information. If you are unsure if the email is a phishing scam, contact the IT Service Desk.
    1. If you know your BroncoName and BroncoPassword, you can submit an IT Service Desk ticket.
    2. If you can't log into WHD, use the help request form.
    3. Or, stop by the IT Service Desk in Building 1, Room 100 with your Bronco Access Card or another photo ID.
  2. If the email sender address doesn't end in @csupomona.edu, it isn't from Cal Poly Pomona. However, even if it does, it still might not be from Cal Poly Pomona, as email senders can be easily spoofed.
  3. Practice safe and secure emailing. Never open an email from a sender you do not recognize and be extra cautious with email from unknown senders with blank, ambiguous or nonsensical subject lines.
  4. If you receive an email that is obviously a phishing email, don’t click on any enclosed links. Add the email to your spam list by following the tutorial at Spam: Managing Email Spam. Then delete the email.
  5. If an email sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true. If it's "free" then you are probably paying in ways you don't realize -- your email address and your personal information or the storage and bandwidth of your computer.
  6. Don't believe or pass on stories that you cannot confirm. Check the credibility of authors and page owners by using some fact-checking tools:
    1. A list of Internet hoaxes -- http://hoaxbusters.org
    2. A website that reviews urban legends -- http://www.snopes.com
    3. Info on the latest scams -- http://www.scambusters.org
    4. Computer Emergency Response Team -- http://www.cert.org
    5. Computer virus info -- http://us.mcafee.com/virusInfo


To report a security attack directed at your computing resources or to notify us of a compromise of the Cal Poly Pomona network, contact the Incidence Response Team at abuse@csupomona.edu or call the IT Service Desk at 909.869.6776.

For more information on computer and network security incident protocol, visit Report a Security Incident at Report a Security Incident.

Disclaimer: Cal Poly Pomona does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes or services. Cal Poly Pomona’s eHelp website provides links to other Internet sites for informational purposes only. When users select a link to an external website, they are leaving the Cal Poly Pomona website and are subject to the privacy, security and accessibility policies of the owners/sponsors of the external site.

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Additional Resources

  • Should you need further assistance, submit an IT Service Desk ticket (you will need to know your BroncoName and BroncoPassword). If you can't log into the IT Service Desk portal, use the help request form or stop by the IT Service Desk in Building 1, Room 100.

IT Service Desk Regular Business Hours:


Note: IT Service Desk hours may be modified to 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, when classes are not in session during the winter and spring breaks.

IT Service Desk Summer Hours:

  • Monday through Thursday: 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Fridays: Closed
  • Exception: Regular Business Hours during the weeks of June 30, 2014 – July 3, 2014 and July 28, 2014 - August 1, 2014.



Images lightbulb.jpg NOTE: Sensitive user-specific information should NOT be provided via email due to security concerns.

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Ask the Poly Techies: Phishing Webisode

Watch the Ask the Poly Techies webisode on phishing!

http://video.csupomona.edu/iit/askthepolytechies2-655.asx (link opens in a new window)

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Did you know?

Targeted Phishing:

Images icon question mark.gif Spear phishing, a targeted version of phishing, targets bank and online payment service customers. While the first such examples were sent indiscriminately, phishers may now be able to determine which banks potential victims use, and target those people with bogus emails accordingly.

Images icon question mark.gif Whaling is a phishing attack directed specifically at senior executives and other high profile targets within businesses.

For other tech terms, visit eHelp's Glossary at eHelp Glossary of Terms.

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