Phishing Scams

A phishing scam is an attempt to get passwords, credit card details or other personal information by emails appearing to be from a trustworthy business or institution. For your security, IT Services will never request passwords or other personal information in an email.

Phishing scams have become much more sophisticated at imitating university communications, and IT Services encourages users to take care in evaluating email messages that claim to be from the university.

Is This A Scam?

How can you really know what to trust and what not to trust? Some phishing email includes university branding that makes it look legitimate. Here are some tips for evaluating whether an email is legitimate and requires your attention, or if it is a potential scam that should be reported.

Verify Contact Information

  • Legitimate email should include your first and last name and offer an alternative contact method other than replying to the email, such as a phone number or campus address.
  • When in doubt, contact the department or person from which the email supposedly originates to ensure it is legitimate.

Malicious email will often include a link hidden within a legitimate-looking link. IT Services uses multiple spam and phishing filters, including ProofPoint, to prevent most fraudulent email from arriving at your Inbox.

To prevent you from accidentally clicking on malicious links, the ProofPoint system finds potentially suspicious emails and rewrites the links in the messages to look something like "https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v1/url?u-http://website.com?s=long." These modified URLs allow the system to check the link when you click on it. If the link is malicious, you will be prevented from visiting the page. If the link is valid, you will be forwarded to the page.

If a link in an email is not modified by ProofPoint, you can play it safe by copy and pasting the URL directly into your web browser.

Don't Fall for the Hype

Phishing scams often trick recipients into responding by creating a sense of urgency. They claim users will lose access to email or a bank account, for example. Responsible companies and organizations do not usually take these types of actions via email, so urgency often indicates the message is a phishing scam.

Phishing Examples

Below is an example of a clever phishing scam that uses legitimate-looking information pulled from real university correspondence. It includes a link that, once clicked, goes to a page designed to capture and collect your personal account information.

Screenshot of Phishing Email

The image below includes notes by the IT Services Security Team pointing out how accurate the information appears to be. Pay attention to the email address in the From field. All legitimate email coming from the University of Arkansas will be sent from an @uark.edu address.

Example of phishing email with notes

IT Services will always provide contact information where you can call to verify an email. If you receive an email with a link to a login page, copy and paste it into your browser and ensure you are going to the intended destination.

Protect Yourself and Others from Phishing

Phishing attacks try to threaten you into giving up your personal information, but there are ways to protect yourself:

Be Suspicious

  • Be suspicious of any email asking you to enter or verify personal information through a website or by replying to the message itself. Never reply to or click the links in such a message.
  • If you feel the message may be legitimate, go directly to the company's website by typing the URL in your browser, or contact the company to see if you really do need to take the action described in the message.

Remove Bad Email

When you recognize a phishing message, delete the email message from your Inbox, and then empty it from the deleted items folder to avoid accidentally accessing any links contained in the message.

Disable HTML

Email with HTML enabled allows you to send and receive formatted text, hyperlinks and images. Plain text email blocks text formatting, hyperlinks and images.

  • To avoid malicious links and other hidden risks from phishing scams, disable HTML in your email application and enable plain text.
  • When you allow your mail client to read HTML or other non-text-only formatting, attackers can take advantage of your email application's ability to execute code, which leaves your computer more vulnerable to viruses, worms and Trojans.
  • Open the Help section of your email application to learn how to disable HTML.

Take Action and Report Phishing

If you think you have fallen for a phishing scam or provided your information to a malicious website:

  1. Change your password immediately at password.uark.edu.
  2. Email security@uark.edu providing the details of the phishing scam and state that you have changed your password.

Some malicious email is so well disguised that it slips past security measures unless reported. Phishing scams, spam and other abusive or suspicious email should be reported to abuse@uark.edu with full header information.

Prevent More Phishing

If you receive a phishing message, do not reply. If you personally know the sender, contact them to let them know that their email was compromised. They should go to password.uark.edu and change their password immediately.

Updated 03/13/2014


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