Preventing email, online employment, and social media scams

Email and social media scams have targeted the Colorado State University community in recent weeks. These scams aim to be as sophisticated as possible to trick unsuspecting recipients.

Scams use one or more of these elements to hook a potential victim and obtain money:

  • Random, unsolicited requests for money or financial information, or offers of money or a job.
  • High pressure tactics including intimidation, fear of harm to yourself or someone else, or high pressure to trust the scammer or do what they say before they will stop communicating with you.
  • Intimidation, threats, and fear, including threats of embarrassment, harm to the caller/scammer, harm to you, or others.

The best defense is to be very suspicious of any emails, social media messages, texts or any online messages from someone asking for money. If it is someone you have not met in person and the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Employment scams

Recently, scams have come through CSU email that appear to be from a CSU email address and include the CSU Career Center logo. These emails display several hallmarks of a scam:

  • It asks for a non-edu email address to communicate with you.
  • It’s an unsolicited email from someone that you’ve never communicated with that advertises a personal assistant position.
  • It is advertised as a high-paying, no experience necessary, remote-work position.

You will occasionally receive emails regarding jobs from the CSU Career Center, but these will always come through Handshake (CSU’s job posting board) and be posted there.

The CSU Career Center shared some other common scam practices:

  • Before you’ve done any work for them, the “employer” offers to send you a check to deposit into your bank account. You are told to keep a percentage of it for your own pay but are then asked to withdraw cash, using it to pay for various items like gift cards that they ship to clients. Or you are asked to immediately transfer funds from your account to the employer’s business accounts. After the transaction, the “employer’s” checks are discovered to be fraudulent.
  • The “employer” is out of the country and never actually interviews or meets you face-to-face.
  • The business name is not easily identifiable, and no clear business website is listed. Or, if there is a website, there is no substance to the content.
  • The email address of the recruiter does not point to a business website, is a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc., address, or the recruiter’s email domain does not match their business name.
  • The job duties described are vague and the language is poor and full of grammatical errors.
  • The employer requires you to pay money or a “membership fee” to access opportunities. While there are some international internships that require a cost, it’s best suited to go through the Office of International Programs, who can help you find opportunities abroad that have been carefully vetted.

In partnership with Handshake, the Career Center has continued to tighten its screening processes to prevent these scams from being posted on our job and internship boards. You can also flag suspicious jobs in Handshake or on its website for us to follow-up on. Read about hallmarks of scams and what you can do about it in this Source article.  If you ever have questions about a job opportunity, don’t hesitate to contact the CSU Career Center.

Social media scams

Some scams threaten embarrassment by building personal relationships with the target, then asking for sexual, compromising, or embarrassing videos, photos, or information. Once they have that information, they then threaten to share the images or information unless they are paid. If you experience one of these scams, contact your local law enforcement.

Other scams are perpetrated online via dating or social media sites, under the guise of romantic interest, often spending months building trust yet never being available to meet in person. These scammers will build an online relationship with their victim, and then get the victim to send money or gift cards to help them out of financial or legal trouble.

Advice from CSUPD

  • Protect your personal information. Lock down privacy options on social media, and don’t accept requests to engage from people you don’t know.
  • Don’t provide access to your Social Security number or financial account information to anyone.
  • Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know and trust through a money exchange site such as Venmo or Paypal, gift cards, Western Union, or Moneygram.
  • If you are contacted by someone claiming to be with a government or financial agency, validate the information. Search the internet for an independent source of this information. Don’t call the numbers given to you or visit a website provided to you via phone or email to validate authenticity. Scammers will “spoof” a phone number so that it appears the call is from a government agency or another local or United States number.
  • Google the phone number that called or texted you. Is it on a scam alert warning website?
  • Look up online information about the office or agency that called you. Does the phone number you were given match?
  • If you are being threatened with collections, arrest, or deportation, call the number listed online (not the one provided to you by the potential scammer) of the agency, such as the police department or IRS. Ask to verify the information you were provided.
  • Visit online sites that list scams, such as, to check any request for money or information.
  • If you believe that someone is trying to target you with a scam, consider reporting it at one of these online locations:

Reporting scams 

  • If you have fallen victim to a scam and have given money, financial information, personal information or gift cards to someone, report it to the local police department that has jurisdiction over your residence – your local city police or county sheriff’s office.
  • If you are a student who lives on campus or an employee who has fallen victim to a scam as part of your employment with CSU, report scams to CSUPD (
  • Preserve evidence, such as text messages, social media communications, emails, receipts from credit or gift cards, bank statements, and other evidence that may help police investigate the scam.