Phishing Alert: Fraudulent Job Offers Impersonating U-M Faculty

Some U-M community members reported receiving this email. It is fraudulent or malicious. Do not respond, click any link in it, or provide personal information or money. See Phishing & Suspicious Email for more tips. If you need help, contact the ITS Service Center.

Date Sent: 
Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Summary

Highly customized email scams have been targeting members of the U-M community. One pernicious scam impersonates a U-M professor and pretends to be offering employment to folks willing to assist with that professor's research and work. This scam uses a number of known techniques to trick recipients into divulging personal information or into giving the scammer money, sometimes in the form of gift cards or other purchased items.

Be suspicious of any offers for employment if you did not apply for or inquire about a job. One of the common factors in this and similar scams is that the recipient of the scam email was not pursuing the job that the scam email offers.

Some examples of actual text from the initial email in this scam are at the bottom of this page.

What to Watch Out For

Fraudulent Email

This scam starts with email impersonating a U-M professor. Some tricks used to make the email look legitimate include:

  • The email is personalized with the name of the recipient in the salutation.
  • The "from" field contains the name of an actual U-M professor. The email may use the name, title, contact information of the real faculty member in the signature or other areas. The sending email address may be spoofed. A spoofed email address will look exactly like a real email address. You can find out How to Spot a Spoof on Safe Computing.
  • An email address that looks close to a real U-M address may be used. Example: if the real professor is bjenson@umich.edu, the fake account would use bjenson.umich.edu@gmail.com. A "reply to" may be set to send replies to a non-UM account. Always check the reply-to field before replying to email. Generally, legitimate email from an individual will have matching reply-to and from addresses.

Red Flags

The scammers running this fraud may request the recipient's assistance in a way that asks for either personal information or financial remittances, or both. The following requests should all be considered a red flag:

  • Requests to deposit checks and spend or send back some or all of the money. Check overpayment scams are a common way to fool someone into handing over money.  In this version of the scam, the sender provides what seems to be a real check; your bank will credit you for some or all of the check, but when the check proves to be fake, you are stuck with the loss for whatever money you spent. Do not respond to requests to print or cash checks and then purchase gift cards or other items of value for a sender.
  • Requests for payment, particularly pre-paid cards or gift cards. A real offer of employment or request for assistance from U-M faculty or staff should not ask you to spend money, particular in the form of providing gift cards or pre-paid credit cards to the person contacting you.
  • Unusual requests to meet in person. In at least one case, scammers have reportedly asked someone to meet them in person. If you receive a request to meet someone you do not know, particularly to exchange anything of value, be extremely cautious. When in doubt, remember that U-M faculty and staff should be willing to meet at their own offices or a well-trafficked public location.

How to Protect You and U-M

Do not reply. If you receive a suspicious message that appears to be from someone at U-M, look for signs that the email is fraudulent. Most phishing and scams can be spotted quickly. If you find obvious signs of a scam, delete the email, do not reply to it.

Verify and Contact. If there are no obvious signs of phishing but the email content is suspicious (offers of jobs you have not applied for, or contact from someone you do not know, for example), look up that sender's contact information in the MCommunity directory and email or call them yourself instead of using the reply-to in email or the information provided in the email.

Report Phishing and other Email Abuse: ITS Information Assurance has a process for reporting suspicious, abusive, or scam email. Your reports help us to tailor technical responses and provide warnings and guidance to the U-M community.

If you get caught or are concerned that your have given personal information or payment to someone attempting to scam you:

  • File a police report.
  • See our Identity Theft page if your personal information was compromised.
  • See our Compromised Accounts page if you believe your U-M or other accounts have been compromised.

Scam Email Text Examples

Please note that to protect the privacy of faculty, staff, and students, actual names and uniqnames may be removed or replaced with generic terms or marked as redacted.

Example 1: Initial contact email.

From: Professor [name redacted] uniqname@umich.edu
Date: Wed, Apr 13, 2022 at 10:36 PM
Subject: Data Collection Research
To: uniqname@umich.edu <uniqname@umich.edu>
Hello [recipient name]
This is an invitation to participate in an Interdisciplinary research project collecting data remotely and earn $250 weekly. It is an adaptable job that requires little to no prior experience not to mention its flexibility to fit into your regular schedule. Provide the information below to indicate interest and you'll receive a follow up email detailing specific.
Full Name:
Cell #:
Alternate email:
Regards
[professor's name]
Title of Professor
Area of Professorship
Departmental Title of the Professor
U-M School where professor teaches
University of Michigan

Example 2: A follow-up email attempting check fraud.

Attached herein is a check . Have both front and back of the check printed out, cut into a check size/shape and at the back of the check endorse by writing your
NAME
ACCOUNT NUMBER
FOR MOBILE DEPOSIT ONLY
 then YOUR SIGNATURE.
Once done, proceed to make a mobile deposit via your bank app on your cell phone..
Kindly send to us a screenshot of the confirmation of deposit when done for record purposes. Thanks
 Note: Print out the front and the back, then endorse it with your name. IT IS FOR MOBILE DEPOSIT ONLY.
[professor's name]
Title of Professor
Area of Professorship
Departmental Title of the Professor
U-M School where professor teaches
University of Michigan