Topics Map > Safety and Security
Cybersecurity, Gift Card Scams
Requests via email, text, or phone that instruct you to purchase or send gift cards are likely to be a scam.
So, you get an email, text, or call from a university faculty or staff member asking you to help them out. And the 'help' they want is for you to buy some gift cards. They might want you to tell them the gift card numbers, or they might want you to send them somewhere. This is a scam. Do not do it.
- ...be wary.
- These kind of things happen frequently.
- ...report attempts.
- Report all suspicious activity to the Cybersecurity Operations Center, email@example.com.
- ...check the From: line to see if the sender address doesn't seem wrong, or off
- Some email applications show the sender address when you hover your mouse over the name in the From: line or right-click it.
- ...look up the real Illinois contact info of the alleged sender in the University Directory.
- If you need to reach out to them, use that.
- Here is an example of what you could send to them: "Hey, I just got an email where you appear to be asking me to buy iTunes gift cards and send them to you. Did you send that to me?"
- ...reply to the original e-mail. Stop communication as soon as possible.
- Fraudsters often disguise their email to appear as if it comes from a very important person, like your boss or boss's boss. They even have been known to try to imitate the Chancellor or the Provost, if they think it will get you to send them something of worth.
- The first message often asks, "Are you available? I need your assistance urgently."
- ...buy anything.
- If there is some extreme, unusual, crazy situation where the university needs to pay for something outside of the normal channels, you want to involve more people from the business, purchasing, and procurement functions, not less. If they aren't in on it with all the process and sign-off needed, it probably shouldn't go forward.
- ...trust any of the information provided when you are contacted outside official channels, or when a contact identifies themselves as a VIP and asks for university information or things of value.
Other things to remember
- If it seems out of place, improper, rushed, or otherwise weird, you should slow down and question it.
- There is virtually no reason that you would need to rush out and buy gift cards outside of the established purchasing channels to pay for something at the university.
- Gift card or cash advance purchases are not allowed on a P-Card.
- If you have replied to a scam email but haven't purchased any gift cards or sent anything of value, there's probably no damage done. You should still report it to firstname.lastname@example.org though.