FROM: University Technology Services
RE: BEWARE: Email Giftcard Scams Targeting Faculty/Staff
Sent: 11/18/2019 10:35:58 AM
To: Students, Faculty

University Technology Services has received reports of directed email scams targeting Cal U faculty and staff in an attempt to get the recipient to purchase gift cards and to email the gift card numbers to the attacker.

The hook is the email appears to come from a Cal U department head, chair, or even the president, but it is really from a scammer using an external account. They have subjects along the lines of “urgent request” or “Hi” with a message like “Are you available? I’m in a meeting and won’t be able to talk on the phone.” The initial message is vague, in an attempt to start a dialog to get the victim’s guard down before specifying the nature of their request.

If they get a response, the attackers then ask the victim to buy several hundred dollars worth of iTunes, Amazon or other gift cards purportedly for a business or departmental function at Cal U.

What should you do if you get a suspicious email?

If you receive such a message, DO NOT RESPOND. Attach the original copy of the message to a new email and send to The sooner we know about these scams, the sooner we can react and protect others!

How can you spot these types of scams?
Be suspicious of any message that asks you to do something unusual, especially if it involves a financial transaction, a bank account or credit card number, wiring funds, gift cards, W2 forms, etc.

Check the sender’s email address to see if it’s from a legitimate Cal U source. Be careful of any messages purporting to come from an employee’s personal email account. (Many giftcard scams have a Display Name of a Cal U employee, but a totally different email address. For instance a Display Name of Fred Smith with an email address of

Call the sender on the phone. Con artists want you to act before you have time to think. They create a sense of urgency, and now that we’ve been advising people to call to verify unusual requests, they’ve started pre-empting that by telling you in the email that you shouldn’t call them because they’re in a meeting.

Security Awareness Training
Cal U offers free Security Awareness Training for students (through D2L) and for Faculty/Staff (through ATLAS). As you can see, not knowing how to spot these scams can be very costly! The training typically takes under 15 minutes to complete.