FAQ: Minneapolis Public School Phishing Scam
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FAQ: Minneapolis Public School Phishing Scam

FAQ: Minneapolis Public School Phishing Scam

Q: What is a phishing email?
A: Phishing emails are sophisticated cyber scams that use the internet to tap into the users’ vulnerability and convince them to give away their personal information in a con artist type of approach. Minneapolis Public Schools, like most large organizations who use the internet, actively blocks these attempts from reaching its users, but attackers always continue to try and find ways to reach and trick users. As our society relies more and more on technology, this has become a challenge that all organizations/companies deal with on all levels. Anyone could have fallen victim to this scam. The only proactive deterrent is user awareness.

Q: What exactly happened in this phishing scam?
A: The particular aim of this scam was to redirect payroll direct deposits to a fraudulent bank account. The scam looked as if it was coming from MPS, and arrived just after our open enrollment period. It asked recipients to sign in with their MPS username and password to ensure proper benefits enrollment. Less than 1% of MPS staff were affected by this scam.

Q: How many staff members were affected?
A: Less than 1% of MPS staff members were affected (about 40 staff members). We want to reiterate that these staff members were victims of this scam and it could have happened to any of us. We have secured these staff members’ accounts, stopped the scammers, and now have connected with them to provide additional supports, information, and resources to help guide them through processing and navigating this difficult situation.

Q: Could I have done anything to prevent this?
A:  The best way you can prevent a scam like this is through being aware and extra careful. Scams like these can happen anywhere/anytime when someone accesses the internet, such as a home computer, personal/work email, text, or a phone call.

Q: How can I tell if it is a scam?
A: One rule will always keep you safe: never respond to an email request for any of your usernames or passwords, nor use your passwords on a website or login to a website to which you have been redirected by email. ONLY use those usernames and passwords when securely logged into an appropriate website, such as www.mpls.k12.mn.us. MPS will never send you an email requesting that you provide your username or password.

Be Aware:

Phishing attacks often contain the following telltale signs:

  1. From a non-MPS email address
  2. Grammatical errors
  3. An urgent call to action or threatening to shut down your account if you do not take action
  4. Asks you to enter personal information, including your password, into a form or website

If you receive a questionable email:

  • Delete it immediately.
  • Do not click on any links.
  • If you entered your password into a questionable form or website, change your password immediately.
  • When in doubt always ask your IT support staff.

For more helpful information on how to spot phishing attacks, watch this recent short video and/or read the recent MPS Insider article on the topic.

Q: What does MPS IT do to prevent scams like this?
A: MPS IT intercepts over a half million cyber-attacks (phishing scams and spam emails) each month. This is something that any organization that utilizes the internet deals with. MPS IT has proactively been taking measures to stay up to date with the constantly evolving cyber security arena, including training materials and reminders for staff to become more aware of protecting their information in this current cyber-age. Furthermore, we have been and will continue to upgrade our systems to keep up with ever changing world of cyber security and industry best practices to provide all additional layers of security possible for our staff.

Q: Is my information secure now?
A: Yes, user accounts are secure - now and for the future. For now, we have disabled the ability for users to change their bank account information online, as well as view their information such as their social security number. Additionally, over the past six months we have been in the process of upgrading our systems to offer the next level of security.

Q: Does this mean that MPS was hacked?
A: No. MPS was not hacked. A hack is when a breach takes place on a systems level. In this case, about 40 employees inadvertently shared their private employee information with scammers. This scam only comprised these employee accounts. It did not compromise MPS systems or information as a whole.

Q: How will I know if I was affected?
A: Once a pattern of attack was identified, MPS proactively ran a search to discover who had been affected. Any staff member who was affected (40 employees) was personally contacted by phone and email by MPS on Friday, November 10, to make sure their pay and accounts are secure and salary received. Another personal round of contacts went out again over the weekend to schedule 1:1 meeting with the affected employees to update their information, provide them with supports, resources, and help them through the recovery process from this unfortunate trap.   

Q: What support is available to staff members affected?
A: Each staff member affected is invited to meet with MPS IT and Payroll so that we can properly update your information, answer any questions, and help provide guidance on next steps. We will do this through an informational session, in which we will share more about the scam and help staff connect to federal agencies that protect against identify theft and fraud. We also want to know if there is anything else we can do to support staff. We’re here to help.

Q: What steps should I take if I believe my private information was stolen? 
A: Unless you are one of the staff affected by this scam, you are not at risk.  

However, we can never be too careful, so if in doubt we recommend the following:

  1. Contact Your Financial Institution. Let them know that your account information may not be secure due to a phishing scam. They will guide you through what actions you need to take to protect your financial information and follow their process if needed.
  2. Sign up for free credit monitoring service at https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-monitoring
  3. Contact the Minnesota Attorney General Office to report scams, receive guidance on protecting your identity, and contacting major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file. (visit: http://www.ag.state.mn.us/, then click on Topics> Scams OR Identity Theft & Computers)
  4. If you have any questions regarding our payroll, please feel free to contact us at Phone: 612.668.0420, Email: payroll@mpls.k12.mn.us, Website:           http://financeandbudget.mpls.k12.mn.us/payroll.html
  5. If you have any questions regarding IT or account security please feel free to contact us at Phone: (612) 668-0088 , Email: ehelpdesk@mpls.k12.mn.us , Website: : http://ehelpdesk.mpls.k12.mn.us

Q: Question about Identity Theft Insurance
A: Minneapolis Federation of Teachers offers Identity Theft Insurance. The basic plan is free of charge to members. Also, you can sign up for free credit monitoring service at https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-monitoring.