Elon Technology Blog

2 Real Examples to Help You Spot an Email Phishing Scam

A person typing on their computer

The dangers of phishing scams hit closer to home than ever last week as Elon faculty and staff members found themselves targeted. As one can note from the screenshots included below, these convincing, yet fraudulent, emails asked faculty and staff to log onto their private Elon accounts. From there, scammers will search for account numbers, login IDs, and other user information. It’s important to learn how you can detect and avoid similar scams.

Check out the emails and annotations below to learn how you can spot a fraudulent email.  (Click the images below to zoom in.)

Be wary of emails with poor grammar as that can be an indicator of a fraudulent email.

A suspicious email sent to Elon faculty and staff.


Be sure to check who the sender of an email is. If it's not someone you know, don't open any attachments or click any links.

A second fraudulent email received last week by Elon faculty and staff.


How to spot a fraudulent email:

  • Remain wary of emails from senders you don’t recognize, especially if they’re asking you to click a link and log in to a website.
  • Remember that grammatical errors can be a sign that an email is a scam, particularly if the email is from an unknown sender.
  • Be wary of emails regarding any requests that you didn’t make.
  • When in doubt, don’t click on any links or download/open any attachment unless you’re expecting such an email.

If you receive messages with these indicators, you may be a target for phishing. If an email seems questionable, simply delete it and do not open any attachments that may be linked or click on any links within the email. Report any suspicious emails sent to your Elon email account to security@elon.edu.








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3 Common Tax Scams and How to Avoid Them

A calculator and documents

According to the IRS, thousands of people have had their personal information (and sometimes money) stolen as a result of a tax scam. These scams, also known as “phishing schemes,” try to trick people into sharing their personal information by pretending to be an official organization, such as the IRS. While you may think that you’re not at risk, if you possess a phone, an email address, or receive mail, you too could fall victim to a tax scam. Today, we’ll share a few ways you can detect common phishing schemes and keep your personal information safe this tax season.

There are several ways that scammers may contact you when trying to phish for personal information. Stay alert and familiarize yourself with some of the most common ways scammers may reach out:

  1. Threatening phone calls claiming you owe back taxes, or threatening arrest if you do not pay.
  2. Fraudulent emails phishing for personal information, pin numbers, and other data.
  3. Scam letters sent directly to your home.

Keep in mind that the IRS does not initiate unsolicited contact with taxpayers so follow the tips below to detect a scam before giving out your information.


What to do when a scammer contacts you via phone:

The majority of reported scam attempts via phone calls follow a predictable pattern. First, the scammer leaves a voicemail, often with poor sound quality, informing a recipient that they are being issued a “final notice” from the IRS about a late payment. The recipient is prompted to call back, and if they do, they will be connected with someone who threatens arrest if they do not receive payment. The callers often use false names and fake IRS employee identification numbers to make themselves seem legitimate, so be wary.

Scammers may also request an unusual form of payment, such as an iTunes gift card, which serves as an untraceable currency. According to NBC, 70% of victims were asked to pay this way, but keep in mind that the IRS never accepts unusual forms of payment.

If you suspect that you may have received a fraudulent pre-recorded message, do not call back. Know that the authentic IRS would never contact you in this way, ask for credit information over the phone, or accept an unusual form of currency. Also, be aware that the scammer may have gathered information on you from the internet to make themselves seem more legitimate. Just because they are aware of your home address or other forms of contact, does not necessarily mean they are from the IRS.


How to detect a scam via email or physical mail:

Another way you may be contacted by a scammer is via email or physical mail. The correspondence you receive will be designed to look like official communication from the IRS and ask for information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts, or verifying PIN information. The IRS does not request this kind of information via email or physical mail, so if you’re unsure about the legitimacy of such a request, always contact the IRS directly for verification. 

Scam emails will appear to be sent from an @irs.gov account because the scammer has faked their email address, so don’t trust an email solely on the appearance of the sender’s contact information. Additionally, misspellings and grammar mistakes could indicate that you have been contacted by a scammer. 


Spotting an IRS email scam

Use these quick tips to help you spot an IRS email scam.


Tips for staying safe during tax season:

In addition to not sharing personal information with a scammer via email, over the phone, or through physical mail, there are many other ways for you to stay safe this tax season. Check out some of our tips for combatting scammers and avoiding identity theft:

  • File your taxes early
    • If a scammer is able to obtain your Social Security number or other information, they will use this information to file fraudulent tax returns to the IRS and other tax authorities in order to receive your tax refund and other tax credits. By filing your taxes early, you decrease your risk of being scammed by limiting the window in which a criminal could obtain and utilize your information.
  • Use a secure wifi network
    • Make sure you are using a secure and private wifi network when completing actions related to paying your taxes, including checking your refund status and filing taxes yourself online. A hacker could gain access to your information if they are able to get on the same network as you by using a common man-in-the-middle attack.  Learn more about securing your home network.
  • Know what to expect
  • Choose a trusted tax preparer
    • Do your research before choosing a tax preparer. Ask yourself these questions before sharing your personal information with any tax preparer:
      • Do they have a website that looks up-to-date and professional?
      • Are their any reviews for this person online?
      • What are the preparer’s credentials?
      • Do they offer any guarantees if something is not filed correctly? 
  • Report suspicious contact
    • If you receive an email that you believe to be a scam, do not open any attachments or text that may be linked. Report the correspondence right away to the IRS. 


By following these tips, you can stay safe this tax season and ensure that your personal information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Learn more about preventing identity theft, cybersecurity, and more by following us on Twitter and by checking out more articles like this on the Technology Blog.





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5 Tips for Blocking Hacker Attacks This Cyber Monday

Christmas tree and giftsThe holiday season has arrived! While this is a perfect time to get great online deals, this is also the time when scammers and hackers take advantage of the increase in online transactions to steal personal information. Scammers often use social media, email, and text messages to trick you into giving away your personal information by getting you to click on links disguised as sales. Usually the links appear to come from a legitimate source, however clicking on them takes you to a malicious, but real-looking, page asking for your personal information. Today, we’ll share a few ways you can spot shopping scams and keep your personal information safe.

Ask yourself these quick questions before buying online this holiday season:

Question 1: Are my apps and web browsers up-to-date?

Apps and web browsers are updated regularly to add new features and address any security vulnerabilities. Before making a purchase make sure everything has the latest updates so you can benefit from any new security improvements.  (How to update apps: Android and Apple.)

Question 2: Do I trust this website with my personal information?

Does the site have a small padlock symbol in the address bar area of the web browser? Does the website address begin with https://? Both of these indicators let you know the site is secure. It is especially important to see these when you are entering passwords, credit card numbers, or other sensitive data, as it ensures that your data is encrypted when sent across the internet.

Question 3: Is my internet connection secure?

Know what network your device is connected to before you click “checkout” to purchase items. Did you have to enter a password to gain access to the network the first time you tried to connect? If so, that’s typically more secure than an open, public wifi connection. Public wireless hotspots at coffee shops and airports are convenient, but since they are publicly available, they are not secure enough to protect others from stealing your data across the network. Keep in mind that when you checkout online, you’re sending your address and credit card information across a wireless network that others are also using. These days, it doesn’t take hackers much to tap into that data and use it for their own gain. When possible, try to limit your use of free wireless networks for just casual browsing.

Question 4: Which payment method should I use?

Use extreme caution with websites or apps that only accept checks, wire transfers, or money orders as the forms of payments.  Cards are preferable, but consider using credit cards over debit cards as they generally provide better buyer and fraud protection if your account is breached and you need to dispute charges.  Review your account statements often to make sure the only transactions listed are the ones you authorized.

Question 5: What else can I do protect myself from while shopping online?

Online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay not only sell products themselves, but also offer products sold and shipped by third-party sellers. Before making a purchase on these sites, take a few minutes to look at comments and reviews to see how others rate the seller and quality of the product. If you see a lot of negative reviews (or no reviews) you may want to shop around for a different seller. Also, be sure to check for the seller’s contact information, such as a phone number or address, in case you have issues and need to coordinate a return or refund.

You should also take some time to check your password habits. Are you using a unique password for each account, especially for banking and other important sites? If not, you could be at risk of a hacker cracking your outdated password and accessing your accounts. Learn more about improving your passwords.


Online shopping can make the holidays merry and bright when you are doing everything you can to make secure purchases. Use these tips to stay safe this holiday season and be sure to check out #ElonSecure on Twitter for more cybersecurity tips!




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Takeaways from National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2017

National Cyber Security Awareness Month logo

Every October, businesses, organizations, and individuals from around the work come together and participate in National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) to promote online safety and cyber security awareness. This month, Elon’s Office of Information Technology has worked together to help make online safety approachable and accessible with weekly cyber security articles and quick tips for staying safe online.

Here are the main takeaways from each week of NCSAM:

Cyber Security 101

A major theme in this year’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month included sharing that it is not difficult to stay safe from the threat of cyber attacks. Throughout the month, we highlighted simple tips for keeping your information safe on the web, including how to create strong passwords, learning to spot email scams, and how to regularly backup your device.

Creating a Culture of Cyber Security in the Workplace

There are many ways for hackers to steal data in the workplace which we brought to light in Week 2 of NCSAM. For example, sharing information online over an unsecure WiFi network or leaving your computer unlocked while away can compromise the privacy of your personal information. However, there are many ways for you, as an employee, to protect personal and professional information. Locking your devices with a password, changing your password regularly, and avoiding links from unsolicited emails are a few simple measures to protect data, prevent identity theft, and stop cyber attacks in the workplace.

Securing Smart Devices

Smart devices allow us stay connected and updated on what is happening around the world while also monitoring our activity and saving our personal information. While smart devices can improve our everyday lives, it is important to remember that they are still at risk of cyber hacks. To stay safe while using smart devices, be sure to set up two-factor authentication, update your devices’ software regularly, and personalize your usernames and passwords.


Although National Cyber Security Month is coming to a close, there are still many ways to stay informed and involved with cyber security. Check out Stay Safe Online to learn more about how you can make the internet more safe and secure for yourself and others online. You can also follow @StaySafeOnline on Twitter and join the #NCSAM conversation to stay on top of cyber security news.

Check out all the National Cyber Security Month articles here on the Elon Technology Blog, and look for #ElonSecure on Twitter for more security tips!



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Securing smart devices and protecting personal information

Photo of smart home connected to devices

Source: asurion.com

We live in a world of smart cities, connected devices, and digitized records. Smart devices allow us stay connected and updated on what is happening around the world, and help us keep up with our fast-paced lives. Although smart devices are immensely useful, they are fueled by our personal information, which can be dangerous. By providing your smart devices with information like your shopping preferences or address, they are able to monitor your activity and save personal data. For example, some connected devices, such as the Echo and Alexa, work by listening to audio cues and spoken phrases to provide their users with a helpful responses. These devices can help us create a shopping list, call a loved one, play our favorite song, and more, but as they are always listening and monitoring what we say, it can be difficult to know how to protect our information from security threats. With this in mind, it is important to understand how to use these cutting-edge devices in a safe and secure way.


What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices that can connect to the internet while collecting, analyzing, and sharing data. A few examples of IoT devices could be:

two people playing video gamesphoto of smart watchGPS system in a car


Fitness tracking device













While smart devices are useful for monitoring and improving our everyday lives, it’s important to keep in mind that they are still susceptible to potential security breaches and hacks. Here are some simple ways to keep your information safe while using smart devices:

  • Set up Two-Factor Authentication
    • Two-factor authentication means going beyond creating a username and password and also providing additional authentication information sent to you from a separate device. For example, when logging into Twitter, there is an additional code sent to your phone that is needed to log in on your computer. This way, even if someone knows your password, you are the only one able to log into your account.  Many devices and apps have this built-in these days, but be sure to enable it for all accounts/apps when possible.
  • Keep your devices and apps up-to-date
    • When an official software update becomes available for your app or device, download it! These updates often contain security patches and bug fixes to prevent potential security issues.
  • Personalize usernames and passwords
    • Most devices come with a default username and password that hackers can easily crack. For example, most wireless routers have login credentials on a sticker on the back of the device which can easily be accessed and is not private. Be sure to create a secure username and password that only you know.


Although smart devices can threaten our data and security, they can make our lives easier and there are many simple ways to use these devices safely. Along with taking precautionary measures such as using two factor authentication, updating your device, and creating personalized usernames and passwords, it is important to be smart and cautious while using these devices.


For more cybersecurity tips. check out last week’s article here on the Elon Technology Blog, and stay tuned next week for a National Security Month recap article! Don’t forget to look out for #ElonSecure on Twitter for even more tips.


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Creating a Culture of Cybersecurity in the Workplace

Man using laptop computer

Data breaches are increasing every year and hackers are getting more advanced as security systems improve. Because of this, there are many ways for hackers to steal data in the workplace including when you share information online over an unsecure WiFi network or leave your computer unlocked. Fortunately, there are many ways for you, as an employee, to protect personal and professional information.

Here are a few simple measures to protect data, prevent theft, and stop attacks in the workplace:

  • Be aware of the people around you
    • Be mindful of the people around you while working in public spaces such as coffee shops or a library. For example, people may be standing behind you or looking over your shoulder while you’re typing in credit card information or viewing sensitive documents. 
  • Lock all devices with a password
    • Having a passcode on your phone and computer can stop a thief from accessing your personal photos, emails, data, etc., if your devices are stolen. Passcodes can also protect your data when you are away from your computer, tablet, or phone.
  • Change your password every few months
    • Changing your password frequently will help protect you against phishing sites and viruses that may attack your computer or other devices. 
  • Do not click on links contained in unsolicited emails
    • If you’re not expecting an email or attachment from a sender, simply don’t open it. Suspicious emails or attachments may contain viruses or phishing scams targeted to capture your personal information.
  • Do not share sensitive information over email
    • Hackers can easily steal information from your email, so please avoid sharing confidential or personal information via email when possible.
  • Clear your desk of all sensitive work and personal documents
    • Do not leave paperwork or post-it notes with sensitive information on your desk as people walking by could easily view that information. For example, passwords, personal employee data, and confidential information should be kept private and inaccessible from people walking by or visiting your desk. 

Employees play a major role in maintaining security in the workplace and must know the basics of preserving data security and spotting possible breaches. Fostering a culture of cybersecurity focuses on strengthening employees’ understanding of security issues and how their actions can help or hurt the company’s security.


Check out last week’s article here on the Elon Technology Blog, and stay tuned next week to learn about the risks of using smart devices! Don’t forget to keep up with National Cyber Security Awareness Month by looking for #ElonSecure on Twitter!


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Information Technology recognized during National Customer Service Week

Ryan Gay and IT student worker, Katie Shifflette, answering technology questions at College Coffee.

Ryan Gay and IT student worker, Katie Shifflette, answering technology questions at College Coffee.

Information Technology is proud to highlight the exemplary customer service provided by the department’s staff during National Customer Service Week.


Service with a smile

When it comes to offering customer service, the employees of Information Technology (IT) strive to offer faculty, staff, students, alumni, and retirees the best experience possible. From troubleshooting issues, to creating new applications and sites, to assisting faculty in integrating technology into their pedagogy, the IT staff is constantly solving new problems to help the Elon community daily.

Offering excellent customer service isn’t unique to IT. It is prevalent throughout Elon in the work that all employees, both professional and student staff, provide to the campus community. To celebrate outstanding customer service, the International Customer Service Association (ICSA) established National Customer Service Week.


What is National Customer Service Week?

Celebrated each year during the first full week of October, National Customer Service Week is an opportunity to celebrate customer service professionals and highlight the important work they perform. Originally started in 1984, National Customer Service Week was proclaimed a national event by Congress in 1992, thanks to the help of Former U.S. Senators Robert Dole and Nancy Kassebaum and U.S. Representatives Dan Glickman and Pat Roberts.

In addition to celebrating customer service professionals, the week also serves to emphasize the importance of offering excellent service to customers. According to John Kressaty, former ICSA president, another purpose of the week “…is to get the message across a wide range of business, government and industry that customer service is very important.”


What does customer service mean?

Customer service is present with everything IT does at Elon. Every staff member works with any number of University constituents to help them achieve their desired goal—whether it’s fixing a broken printer, creating a new web application, or figuring out a way to use new technology in the classroom.

“We understand that technology changes rapidly and is pervasive in our work as educators,” explained Assistant Vice President for Technology and Chief Information Officer, Christopher Waters. “We embrace a support model that is seamless in our community. The Office of Information Technology consistently adjusts our support strategy to meet the changing needs of our students, faculty, and staff. As a strategic partner with departments and offices, our goal is to listen and understand the need or innovation of our campus constituents.”

In fact, the staff in IT are extremely dedicated to making sure that those we work with have a positive experience.

“Customer service is going the extra mile to provide the customer with what they need,” explained Technology Service Desk student staff member, Janae Williams. “The majority of customers don’t come to Technology just to say hello. [At the Service Desk] many customers are experiencing issues that inconvenience them and the ability to do their job. But, we always do our best to get them to their desired resolution.”

Instructional Technologist, Sara Vanderpool, noted that IT staff strive to go the extra mile when working with customers.

“Customer service means being kind, patient, and a good listener,” she said. “It also means assisting the client until their problem is solved, their question is answered, or until you’ve pointed them to the person who can help. This may mean that you have to do things that are out of the scope of your job.”


How do we provide customer service?

IT staff provide customer service in a variety of ways. Several members spoke on how they strive to provide users with the best experience possible.

“You have to show willingness to help solve an issue,” explained Assistant to the CIO, Mel Brown. “You get the answers the customer needs and you follow-up with them.”

Service Desk Analyst, Ed Williams, noted that he always puts his best foot forward when working with users.

“I provide my best customer service skills—you have to be patient, communicate clearly, and inform them of what’s going on,” he said.

Janae Williams agreed, noting it’s important to stay positive in conversations (particularly when a user is frustrated) and sympathizing when things have gone wrong, like when a student’s hard drive has crashed.

Michelle Woods, Manager of the Technology Service Desk, added another layer.

“I give each customer my undivided attention and put forth my best effort to resolve their issue as quickly as possible,” she explained. “If I’m unable to resolve the issue, I ensure the customer that I will document the issue and get it to the appropriate area that will be able to provide a solution.”


The best parts of customer service

Certainly, there are difficult customer service experiences. People may be frustrated or not able to achieve their desired results, which can complicate things. However, the joy of being able to help others is what stood out most when discussing customer service.

“I love the fact that each user is unique,” Ed Williams said. “Each one needs to be addressed in their own way. I just really enjoy helping others. My favorite moments are when a user will call in and begin a conversation with, ‘I’m not tech savvy,’ or ‘Forgive me for taking up your time.’ I always respond: You know what? I’m here for you! You know, if I were attempting your job, I’m sure I’d need help, too!”

Vanderpool noted that what she enjoys most about providing users the best customer experience possible are the relationships.

“By providing the best customer service experience, I’m allowed to get to know the clients a bit,” she explained. “I am able to ask the client about their day or about their course, which allows me to further provide the best customer service I can.”

“I just enjoy helping people get the things they need,” Brown noted.

Learning how to provide customer service has also been beneficial for students in their experience at Elon.

“I believe that (we) want to leave a positive and lasting impression on the Elon community,” Janae Williams said. “I just enjoy how appreciative customers are when I provide great customer service. I’ve learned that I can directly impact how others feel for the remainder of their day. So, in my mind, I believe I’m helping customers feel better.”


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Cybersecurity 101: 5 Quick Tips For Staying Safe Online

To kick off National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’re sharing five simple tips for keeping your personal information safe from cyber attacks. While you may feel that you’re not at risk for a cyber attack, keep in mind that over 1.9 billion data records have been hacked during global cyber attacks in just the first half of 2017.  It’s even possible that your information has been hacked without your knowledge. Luckily, there are several ways to protect yourself from the threat of cyber attacks.

Here are 5 tips for staying safe on the web:

  1. Create secure passwords

    • Want to create a secure password and, most importantly, remember it? Check out LastPass, a password manager that will help you create strong passwords and remember them for you! Test your password strength and find out how secure your password is here!
  2. Lock your devices

    • Lock all of your devices with passcodes to keep intruders out. Even if your device is stolen, a passcode will stop the thief from accessing your personal photos, emails, data, and more.
  3. Look out for email scams

    • To avoid phishing scams and increase your email safety and security, don’t open attachments or links from senders you don’t know. Rule of thumb: If you’re not expecting an email or attachment from a sender, simply don’t open it.
  4. Keep personal information personal

    • Just like in real life, there’s such a thing a sharing too much information. Don’t post sensitive information to social media, such as your phone number or where you live. Also, be sure not to share private information over an unsecure public network, such as credit card information or bank logins.
  5. Backup your information regularly

    • Be sure to backup your data, contacts, files, photos, etc. in case your device is lost or stolen. Learn how to backup an Apple device here, or an Android here.

Beyond having a large scale impact on major corporations and databases, cyber attacks can impact our daily lives as well. Hackers can tap into emails with personal information, bank accounts, social media, and much more. Make sure to follow these quick tips and do your part in protecting your devices from viruses and hackers. To learn more, read next week’s article on cybersecurity in the workplace and follow #ElonSecure on Twitter!




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NCSAM 2017: Cyber security is our shared responsibility

This October marks the 13th anniversary of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM)!  Since its creation in 2004, NCSAM has been a respected source of cybersecurity tips and information for staying secure online. Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook this month as Elon shares advice and resources for keeping your personal information safe. #ElonSecure

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Keeping your data secure when using cloud services

Cloud network graphic via LinkedIn

What are cloud services?

If you’ve ever streamed a show on Netflix or Philo instead of watching a physical DVD or VHS, you’ve used a cloud service.  The ability to access data from virtually anywhere and from any device is made possible by the use of cloud services. Thanks to cloud services, data can live on one or more servers, often called “the cloud,” instead of residing on just one device (like a computer, phone, hard drive or DVD).  Devices can connect to the cloud to access text files, emails, movies and shows, and more. Some well-known cloud services include Google Docs, Dropbox, and the Office 365 suite.

Here are just a few ways you’ve probably used cloud services:

  • Syncing the photos on your phone to an online file storage app, such as Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud
  • Collaborating with other people on a single Google Doc or Word Online
  • Typing a note on your computer and it automatically syncing with your phone
  • Sharing files with coworkers using Office 365 or Sharepoint.

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