Phishing is when an attacker sends someone a fake email hoping to get that person to perform some type of action such as clicking on a malicious link, opening a malicious attachment, or getting the individual to enter sensitive information into a fake website. Phishing emails can lead to loss of research and sensitive data, identify theft, financial damage and more. Phishing emails are very common and it is super important for us to know how to protect ourselves against them.

If you suspect that you have received a phishing email, report it to

Red Flags to Look Out For

  • Blank or generic greeting - most of the time attackers don’t have internal information, so their messages are very generic. For example, "Dear customer" instead of using your name.
  • Sense of urgency - attackers like to take advantage of our emotions and often times creates a sense of urgency to get us to respond.
  • Non-routine business requests - attackers are not familiar with our internal business processes. Often times they ask us to perform non-routine requests.
  • Suspicious email addresses – the majority of phishing emails can be spotted by looking at the sender’s email address. It is always good to ask yourself if the email comes from an address that you would expect. If the sender address looks suspicious it is good to verify if the email is legitimate. You can always look up the sender in the UCI directory and give them a call or email their UCI email address as listed in directory.
  • Unfamiliar sender – Be suspicious if you ever receive an email from someone or from an organization that you never provided your email address or have been in contact with before.
  • Request for sensitive or personal information – UCI and other reputable organizations will never ask you to send your account credentials to them via email.
  • Offer sounds too good to be true – attackers may promise amazing offers to help get you to respond to their scam.
  • Misspelling, typos, unfamiliar languages - most phishing emails are not very well written and often contain grammatical errors.
  • Forged links to web sites – before clicking on any links, it is always good to carefully hover over the links to see the real URL. This can help prevent you from clicking on a link that would redirect you to a malicious website. To learn more please visit the UCI Learning Center and search for the course “Identifying Fraudulent URLs”.

Things You Can Do to Help

  • Become familiar with what phishing looks like. Review the phishing red flags section of this web page.
  • Verify email with sender. If an email seems suspicious, you can always contact the individual from a known legitimate phone number or email address.
  • Use a password manager. If you ever click on a link that takes you to a fraudulent site, your password manager will not recognize the URL and won’t populate your password. 
  • Use Multi-factor Authentication (MFA). MFA will require anyone trying to get into your account to not only know what your password is, but also have physical access to something you own, such as a mobile phone or token.
  • Check your account login activity. UCI has a self-service application called My Account Activity that allows you to view your recent UCInetID account activity for common OIT services. Verify all the activity is legitimately you. Report any suspicious activity to OIT at


Optional phishing awareness training modules are available on the UC Learning Center. Each course takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete.

  • Phishing 101
  • Identifying Fraudulent URLs
  • Avoiding Dangerous Attachments
  • Data Entry Phishing
  • Email Security on Mobile Devices
  • Spear Phishing Threats
  • Protecting Against Ransomware