Phishing is a technique for acquiring your personal information (e.g., credit card or bank account numbers and passwords) and subsequently committing fraud in your name. This might include identity theft or emptying your checking and savings accounts. It has been around since 1996 but is becoming more common and more sophisticated. It's a form of cyber crime that's growing faster than the ability of the police or courts to deal with it. The word "phishing" is simply a play on the word "fishing" — scammers drop email lures into the sea of Internet users, hoping to hook your personal information.
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