Workshop Scams, Phishing and Spoofing

Submitted by dfredenburg on December 4, 2008 - 1:55pm.

Greetings colleagues,

After fielding yet another question about a workshop/training invitation that was clearly a scam/phishing/spoofing exercise (this was an ICO US/UK EVENT from one Robert Rowen, in April it was a more professional effort from Gunderson Council Development Foundations) to one of our country programs I was wondering how other agencies deal with this. Clearly scammers now have our lingo down and are duping the unsuspecting. Maybe a page at AWN could be set up to repeat the advice we already give (e.g. below) and flag the most obvious ones when they pop up.

“The most important thing is to never, ever, reply – the point of a phishing email is to gauge your interest and any reply (even to ask for clarification or to say please don’t send me any more emails) is a positive one to these people and your address will be flagged to get more. If you want to find out the veracity of the workshop, get the foundation name (Steve Gunderson, Clinton Foundation) through the Council of Foundations or other resource and write directly – do not use any email address provided in the message.”


Dane Fredenburg
Deputy Regional Director for Program Quality – Southern Africa Region
Catholic Relief Services

Submitted by jcravens42 on December 4, 2008 - 6:20pm.

Dane, that's AWFUL! And, sadly, not the first I've heard of this. Because your organization is such a well-known brand, it's not going to be the first time this happens.

When I was at UNDP/UNV, someone emailed several users of our online volunteering service and claimed that they had been chosen to receive a grant from the "Bill and Melinda Foundation" because of their participation with UNDP/UNV. Never mind that the foundation's name was wrong, that the email was from a Yahoo account (not that there's anything wrong with Yahoo, but I'm betting a foundation wouldn't use such), that the email was riddled with spelling and grammar errors, and several other red flags -- two organizations fell for it, and had their bank accounts emptied as a result of the information they shared.

I've noticed that several UN agencies have disclaimers on their web sites noting that there is NEVER a charge to apply for jobs, so that must be a huge problem as well.

I myself have received numerous emails telling me I've been awarded some special "grant" from this or that fake organization. Again, the emails are riddled with spelling and grammar errors, even if they use official logos from various organizations.

Pri, if you are reading this, this might be a good topic to mention in the next AWN email newsletter. I'll look around for places to add the warning in the AWN advice pages as well.

If anyone else has a way to get the word out, please share here. And if you work with NGOs, you should definitely get the word out to them -- they are particularly vulnerable for this kind of scam.

Jayne Cravens
Bonn, Germany

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