Be Aware of Scams in your Inbox

By C. Aileen Blaine

Scrolling through the endless messages in the inbox of a Youngstown State University email account is sometimes overwhelming. When a message promising a high wage for short weekly hours appears, it can be all too tempting to accept the offer. But at what cost?

In an email, director of IT Infrastructure Services Ryan Geilhard said it’s important for the YSU community to be aware of potential scams.

“[It’s good to] help students become aware of risks and dangers, as well as what to do if one is notified as affected,” Geilhard said. 

Robert Ferguson, data security analyst, said YSU has a layered email protection system that monitors inbound and outbound messages for threats such as known scams or viruses. Of the monthly 9 million monthly messages the servers see, approximately 4.4 million are discarded because they originate from known threat sources, contain viruses or are tagged as spam. 

Some common scams that may reach a student, faculty or staff member’s inbox include:

  • False employment opportunity scams (i.e. dog walker or personal assistant positions with few hours for a high wage)
  • False business opportunity scams (i.e. “get rich quick” schemes through investments in a false company or product)
  • Extortion scams (i.e. a false witness claiming to need payment in order to remain silent)

When it comes to checking the validity of an email and its source, Ferguson suggests users ensure the email address and the sender’s signature align with the organization’s information. However, there are rare occasions in which sender addresses can be faked or hacked from reputable establishments. In these instances, recipients should be on the lookout for misspelled words or plain and unprofessional formatting. Other indicators include outdated company logos, names or colors. Ferguson also said scammers may use a sense of urgency, such as password change requests or fees due, with the risk of an ultimatum to scare recipients into responding with potentially personal information.

“Most legitimate businesses will notify users well in advance of any deadline to update account information or make changes to a service,” Ferguson said.

If a YSU community member suspects a scam email in their inbox, they can forward it to security@ysu.edu or report it to the IT Service Desk via phone or email. 

Ferguson acknowledged since the start of the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in the number of scams circulating, as scammers attempt to take advantage of those who may be unemployed and desperate. At YSU, employment opportunity scams have more than doubled since 2019. 

“IT Services has noticed a considerable uptick in attempts by ‘bad actors’ to take advantage of people, using various unemployment scams,” an email sent by James Yukech, chief information officer, said. “Some are very sophisticated and make it into your email inbox.”

“Use caution when responding to job offers or messages that have a financial element to them,” Ferguson said. “If it is too good to be true, it probably is.”

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