Email Phishing

The Phishing Scam Artist

  • What is phishing?
    • Phishing is a form of cyber-attack where the attacker ‘mimics’ another person, university or business with the hopes of tricking the user into clicking a link and/or providing their personal information.
  • What do they want?
    • Money! Or worse - your identity!
      • Oftentimes the attacker is looking for personal information – social security number, username and password, or banking information – in order to gain access to your account(s).
    • Control!
      • Other times the attacker is attempting to infect or take control of your device.

What’s in their ‘bag of phishing tricks’?

  • Does phishing sound scary? It can be. The best defense is being informed and knowing how to avoid becoming a victim to a phishing email. Attackers have quite the array of ‘tricks’ they use to trap a user such as:
    • URGENCY! Telling you this needs immediate attention, or ELSE!
    • Suspicious links
    • Attachments
    • Using the same logo/format as an email you’d expect to see from an otherwise established institution to gain your trust

How do I protect myself?

Be critical of the email and assess who it’s from and the reason behind it. Is the email asking for your credentials? Are they trying to get you to open an attachment? Click on a link? Sometimes it is smart to call the organization or check the organization’s website to verify if they are sending emails of this nature out to their users/customers.

  • Do NOT:
    • Do NOT keep any detailed personal or family information in your stored emails;
    • Do NOT maintain any personally identifying information such as driver’s license, SSN, passwords, credit card numbers, or date of birth in your emails;
    • Do NOT write your passwords down, share or email your passwords to anyone, or use commonly constructed passwords (pet names, family names, SSN, etc.);
    • Do NOT walk away from your computer while still logged into your email without locking your screen;
    • Do NOT use your date of birth or easily obtained information for passwords or password reset questions.
  • Do:
    • DO safeguard your passwords and information;
    • DO always lock your computer and/or device;
    • DO report any suspicious emails to;
    • DO use common sense and a critical eye when reviewing emails;
    • DO always log in with a trusted URL;
    • DO verify the link sent in an email by 'hovering' over to see its true destination;
    • DO verify the sender of the email by 'hovering' over their name to see what email address was used.

Oh NO! I just answered that phishing email; what do I do now?

  • If you responded to a request for a password and/or provided account information to someone inadvertently:
    • Change your password to a dissimilar and better password immediately.
    • Notify the IT Service Desk immediately at 815-753-8100.
    • If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for suspicious charges to your account.
    • If you believe your identity may be compromised...
      • Please visit the FTC’s Consumer Information regarding Identity Theft at for more information and steps to recover; OR
      • Please contact your local police department; OR
      • You may contact the NIU Department of Police and Public Safety at 815-753-1212 or;
      • Contact credit bureaus to freeze your credit.

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