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Imposter Text Messages

  • Author: Christian Sisenstein

  • Date:

Imposter text messaging is on the rise at UCSF. IT Security has received a number of recent reports of staff receiving text messages impersonating UCSF senior leadership (such as UCSF Health CEO Suresh Gunasekaran), asking the recipient to purchase gift cards. This increasingly common scam attempts to take advantage of the approaching holiday season, when requests for gift card purchases may be more common. The attackers send text messages that generally start with a question such as, “Are you free? I need assistance right away.” If the recipient replies to the text message, the attacker attempts to talk the recipient into buying gift cards and may promise that the purchases will be promptly reimbursed. The attacker then asks the recipient to send pictures of the gift card codes in order to steal the funds. 

We request that you be extra vigilant and follow the steps below so that you avoid becoming a victim of one of these attacks:


  1. If you are generally not communicating with senior leadership via text message, please be suspicious of receiving communication in this manner.
  2. If you are unsure if the sender is who they say they are, offer to call them back on a known UCSF number (such as one listed in the directory) to verify their identity.
  3. Be skeptical of requests to purchase gift cards for business reasons, especially if the sender requests pictures of the gift card codes; this is usually a scam.
  4. Please report any text message you think could be an impersonation to the IT Service Desk, and include a screenshot of the message with the phone number if possible.