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AFS Review: News

Phishing Expedition May Have Trawled Published Resources

Wednesday, February 20, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman

Despite a phishing attempt sent to some AFS members on Monday, AFS member data has not been breached. Our webservice provider has given this close attention, and finds no evidence of unauthorized access of our secure data. Instead, based on the known recipients, it is most likely that the distribution list was compiled from published material, such as past annual meeting program books or staff lists from folklore departments and organizations.

AFS staff contacted members on Monday to alert them to a phishing attempt that appeared to originate from AFS asking for contributions to a GoFundMe campaign; we asked members to let us know if they received the message. About 20 members responded to say that they had.

As some of the recipients remarked, the message seemed almost convincing; it displayed the AFS logo and seemingly originated from an AFS email account. The plea to come together to support a virtuous cause—life-saving surgery for baby Reese--may sound plausible. Some of the clues that the message was unreliable were:

  • it seemed to come from, which is not an address that AFS staff use; in fact, that address masked the real sender.
  • the “pay now” link led directly to PayPal, not GoFundMe, as claimed.
  • the content of the message: AFS may invite you to pay for AFS services or contribute to AFS initiatives, but our messages will direct you to our secure website. AFS will not solicit for non-AFS related projects.

It is always possible that bad actors may take advantage of resources that folklorists use to stay connected. AFS annual meeting program books have long included email addresses of program presenters to facilitate networking and allow attendees to follow up with presenters after the meeting. In the past, we’ve warned attendees to beware of predatory publishers who, like some reputable publishers, mine conference programs to solicit submissions. This recent scammer may have followed that lead.

Earlier this year, we revised the 2019 Annual Meeting proposal process to require all participating individuals to submit their own personal information with just such security concerns in mind. The new proposal process asks for your permission to publish your email; no email addresses will be published without the owners’ explicit consent.

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