Recognizing a Phishing Attempt

Phishers use a variety of means to gain your Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Learn how to recognize a phishing attempt.

Operating System: All

Applies To: UB students, faculty, staff, alumni, retirees and volunteers

Last Updated: February 15, 2023

Vehicles for Phishing Attempts

  • Email attachments and links
  • Pop-up windows or messages
  • Phone calls
  • Instant messages (IMs) 
  • Text messages
  • Fake system notifications (impersonating Dropbox, UBbox, etc.)

How You Can Tell It’s a Phishing Attempt

You can tell it’s a phishing attempt if:

  • Has a deceptive to/from. Check message to/from carefully to see who the sender really is. Phishers use colors, logos and phrasing from companies and universities to make their communication seem genuine and mimic a legitimate email address.
  • Directs you to a website that looks legitimate, but is not. Sometimes the phisher uses a URL that appears similar to a genuine source’s URL in order to trick you. To avoid being fooled:
    • Make sure the URL for any form matches the trusted place you intend to go.
    • Hover your mouse over a link without clicking it to see the link’s destination.*
    •  Do an Internet search for the actual company URL.

*Note: If you see a link that starts with “nam12.safelinks…” it may be something called a Safe Link.  Use the decoding tool found at  to determine the original link.

  • Asks you to give, update, validate or confirm your account information.
  • Requires an immediate response such as, “You must respond within 24 hours”.
  • Threatens dire consequences if you do not respond.
  • Contains forms or dialogue boxes that prompt you to enter your Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
  • Is not a secure page. Before entering any PII, be sure a page is security enabled (starts with https, not http). Never fill in forms you receive in email, or ones you were directed to by an unsolicited message, pop-up or text.
  • Contains spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Fails to address you by your name and instead addresses you as “Client,” “User” or “Customer”.
  • Appears to be from a reliable source. Phishers disguise themselves as  reliable, familiar sources like a bank, telephone or computer companies.
  • Promises services or rewards that are too good to be true like offers on coupons or promises to remove computer viruses. This is often a way of gaining access to your email address or computer itself.
  • Tries to entice you by offering you the latest technology. Phishers will often use products like iPads, phones, laptops, and flat screen televisions to get your email address or phone number.
  • Looks like a suspicious update by a friend on a social media network. Scammers target popular social media sites and use messages or updates from friends as a way to lure you to sites requesting your Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Sample Phishing Messages

Still need help?

Contact the UBIT Help Center.