Assistant Dean for the Arts Kate Krier invited parents to the Davenport Theater to “Pretend to Enjoy Your Kid’s Improv Show,” according to a fraudulent email sent on Oct. 6 — one of just many scam messages students have increasingly received this semester.

Yale Information Security, Policy and Compliance warned Yalies in a campus-wide email of the rising dangers of fraudulent messages impersonating Yale services. Six days after this Oct. 1 email, members of the Yale community received a fraudulent email parodying Yale Information Security, warning instead against an “increase in fraudulent emotions” on campus. The original Oct. 1 email referenced a “substantial increase in fraudulent messages impersonating members of Yale leadership,” received via email messages, texts and phone calls. While many of the emails are harmless, Information Security said that students could be at risk of loss of data. Still, Information Security assured the community that they were “exploring ways to block these kinds of messages.”

When asked about the types of fraudulent messages that have been increasing in number, Information Technology Services declined to comment and said they did “not have any further information” that they could provide.

Students often receive emails from mass panlists due to their affiliation with Yale College or the broader University. These messages often come from high-ranking administrators on campus — such as University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Marvin Chun — to make an announcement or deliver crucial information.

Students can access fellow undergraduate emails through Yale Facebook, which also provides names, photographs and home addresses for students who allow that information to be listed — all accessible with just a Yale NetID.

For many students, the Oct. 1 and the follow-up parody email were the first instances of counterfeit communications they heard.

“I didn’t realize there was a problem at all,” Epongue Ekille ’21 said. “The only thing I saw about fraudulent messages was the email warning against fraudulent messages.”

Scam emails have circulated campus in years past. For example, in March 2019, Yale students received an email “announcing Yale’s new first-year preorientation program: PARTY,” signed by “Pete S., Dean of Student Affairs.”

According to the Oct. 1 email, Yale Information Security has no way of filtering fraudulent messages unless they block all emails sent by non-yale.edu email addresses. In the email, they encouraged members of the Yale community to “do their part in recognizing or reporting
suspicious messages.”

Although many emails — clearly jokes — may appear to be harmless, the email from Information Security warned that fraudulent messages could compromise data and devices if students are not cautious.

“Getting an occasional fake email can be quite funny when the creator is both obvious and very clever with their satire,” Danielle Losos ’21 said. “However, when the email too closely mimics the Yale format, it is confusing and annoying to detect whether or not it’s true. Lately, the practical joke has been overdone.”

Other students said they simply opt to ignore messages they deem to
be fraudulent.

Ameera Billings ’21, who said she remembers receiving the email warning against “fraudulent emotions,” finds her own way around the spam.

“When people hack into the Yale system to send those emails,” Billings said, “I just block the email chain.”

Yale College has 5,964 students.

Anna Gumberg | anna.gumberg@yale.edu