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Email Hoaxes and Scams

June 12, 2003

Over the past few months, Information Technology Services has received an increase in the number of complaints or questions related to e-mail scams.

Many are not aware that it is trivial to impersonate an email address, because E-mail by its very nature provides relatively anonymous communication for scammers to contact individuals.

As a result many email scams arrive with a sender's address that appears to be valid (i.e. security@paypal.com). A majority of these messages originate overseas making it very difficult for law enforcement officials to track them. The scammers will go to great length to ensure that a scam appears valid, and in many cases, the scammers will create websites that appear identical to those of the company they are impersonating.

E-mail scams can be broken into three categories: impersonation of a legitimate company to obtain personal information (i.e. Paypal, Ebay), request for funds that will later be reimbursed by a much larger sum of money, and request for funds by an individual "down on their luck". While these emails may be appealing and emotional, ITS would like to remind users that in these cases users will only be lining the wallets of scammers and more than likely be exposing themselves to multiple problems ranging from loss of money to identity theft.