How to Avoid Email Scams

Posted by Deea Deb on July 2, 2020

Student Life

Hey Lions! With students spending more time doing coursework online, cyber-scammers are finding more opportunities for disruption, and some fraudulent email activity, directed at students, has come to our attention. This #YUBlog wants to help keep you safe from falling victim to online scammers.

How to avoid online scams

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are generally received by email or text messages. If you receive an email or text message that tells you to click on a link to get a message about your COVID-19 economic stimulus cheque — and it needs to be opened through a portal link requiring your university or personal login, don’t do it. It’s a phishing scam. If you click to “log in,” you could be giving your username, password or other personal information to scammers, while possibly downloading malware onto your device.

Phishing emails

Note: Some of York U’s communication will require you to log in through Passport York (PPY). Any request for PPY login credentials is made at this URL only – Any page that asks for PPY details from a student that’s not at this URL should be deemed suspicious.

Phishing messages may:

  • Say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
  • Claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
  • Say you must confirm some personal information
  • Include a fake invoice
  • Want you to click on a link to make a payment
  • Say you’re eligible to register for a government refund
  • Offer a coupon for free stuff or something like this to grab your interest

Student Loan Debt Relief Scam

You’ve probably seen ads from companies promising to help with your student loan debt. Some companies promise fast relief. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. 

If the companies say they can quickly get rid of your loans through a loan forgiveness program or that they will wipe out your loans by disputing them, before they know the details of your situation, they are most likely scammers.

Most scammers might ask you for an up-front fee. If you pay upfront to reduce or get rid of your student loan debt, you might not get any help — or your money back.

To get you to commit, scammers will ask you to act or sign up right away. Take your time and evaluate it. A Department of Education seal doesn’t mean it’s legit. Scammers use official-looking names, seals and logos, and tell you they have special access to certain repayment plans, new federal loan consolidations or loan forgiveness programs. They don’t.

Don’t give away your Social Insurance Number, university ID numbers and login details, bank information or any other sensitive identification numbers.  Some scammers claim they need this information to help you. However, this information could be used to get into your account and take control of your personal information.

Protect yourself

Protect yourself against online scams

Here are a few ways in which you can protect yourself from cyber scams:

  • Protect your computer by using security software.
  • Protect your mobile phone by setting software to update automatically.
  • Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication.
  • Protect your data by backing it up.
  • If you have concerns about an email or text message, don’t click on any links.
  • The easiest way to distinguish a phishing scam is to take a closer look. While some phishing emails look completely legit, bad grammar and spelling can be a tip-off to phishing.
  • Check that the university and department’s names are spelled correctly and the contact information is accurate.
  • If you are concerned about the contact information mentioned in an email that you have received, get in touch with the university or specific department directly to check the validity of the email.

Report Scams

If you spot something that looks like a phishing scam, report it.

To report “phishing” messages that appear to have been sent by York University, please contact UIT at To know more about phishing email scams please visit the Computing for Students website. You can also visit York U’s Information & Privacy Office website for information and privacy-related resources that may be of particular interest to students.

If you have received an email for which you did not give consent or that you believe is misleading or fraudulent, forward it to the Spam Reporting Centre.

If you have received a phishing attempt, or suspect that you may be a target of a scam or fraud, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by telephone at 1-888-495-8501 or through their Fraud Reporting System.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is the central agency in Canada that collects information and criminal intelligence about such matters as mass marketing fraud (e.g., telemarketing), advance fee fraud, tax scams (e.g. calls claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency), Internet fraud and identification theft complaints.

For more resources dealing with cybersecurity incidents please visit the Canadian Center for Cyber Security website.

To stay up to date with campus life and events, connect with York U on social media. You can follow us on Facebook @YorkUStudents, Twitter @YorkUStudents, Instagram @studentlifeyu and with our weekly This Week @ York emails.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or tweet us at @YorkStudents.

Deea Deb
Deea Deb

Deea Deb is a second-year English and Professional Writing double major at York University. She loves reading, travelling, being organized, and hoarding unnecessary quantities of planners and stationery. She hopes to help York students succeed at university.

See other posts by Deea Deb

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