Example 238: Retirement Scam for University Personnel

Retirement support scam targeting faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota.

Planning for retirement can be complex and emotional, and many people seek guidance and assurance that they are doing it “right”. Because of this, retirement consultation offers are a common technique for email scammers who are seeking money or personal information.

Recently, individuals at the University of Minnesota received an email with the subject “Retirement Support for University Personnel”. This is a scam!

In the email, they promise to provide guidance on federal, state, and institutional retirement benefits such as a 403(b) or social security. They also provide a link to sign up for an appointment that is pre-populated with some information that can be retrieved from the public directory, such as name, campus, and email address.

University Information Security (UIS) did not engage in the scam to determine the end goal, but we presume that either this scam is intended to expose personal information, such as social security numbers, or it is intended to entice people to pay for services that they do not need. 

Guarding against retirement scams

We recommend reviewing guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on how to avoid retirement fraud.

Two key recommendations relevant to this scam are:

  • Investigate the company
    • In this scam, individuals are directed to follow a link to district-assistance[.]com 
      • There is no company related information.
      • There is no “About” page, no contact info.
    • Attempting to visit “district-assistance[.]com” directly yields the same sign up page without pre-populated information
    • A search for “District Assistance Retirement” yields no company results
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers
    • Neither you nor the University of Minnesota requested this service.
    • The scammer uses confusing language, stating “All representatives are [...] appointed with college-approved vendors”
      • This means nothing! 
      • Which vendors? Approved by which colleges? Sounds phishy!