Financial Phishing Attacks

October 11, 2021

Watch out for financial "spear phishing" emails.

These may look like they come from a supervisor or manager and request that you send funds, transfer money, provide banking information, buy gift cards, or provide something of value to the sender. 

Spear phishing attacks have increased dramatically over the past few years as scammers get more sophisticated. UC employees have been targeted on multiple occasions. Scammers send realistic looking emails using information gained from publicly available sites, such as organizational charts, scammers can send realistic looking email messages pretending to be a Campus official.

Be cautious, even if you receive an email from a supervisor or high-level leadership official. Frequently attackers will impersonate high-level finance leadership, such as a Controller, Chief Financial Officer, Dean or Vice Chancellor, or a vendor with whom you already have a relationship. Many times the email includes an unscheduled or unusual "urgent" request for funds or banking info.  

Before acting, connect with the person who made the request. Be sure to use contact information obtained from another source (like the Berkeley Directory). If things seem off, notify of the request.

Some signs to look out for:

  • An email requesting an unscheduled payment from a vendor. 

  • A request to transfer funds that is "urgent" or needs to occur immediately.

  • An email requesting a money transfer or gift card from an official who does not typically request funds.

  • Unusual language, poor grammar/spelling, or formatting in an email from a supervisor, leadership official, or vendor.

  • Return email addresses or links that do not match the name of the requester (hover your mouse over the return email address or links to see if they are associated with a non-UC Berkeley domain but remember not to click on any links in the message).

  • Logos that do not match UC Berkeley's branding guidelines