Phishing (analogous to fishing, and hence the term) refers to a practice where a perpetrator attempts to lure a victim into visiting an authenticlooking Web site and entering personal information. The purpose of a phishing scheme is to steal personal information from the victim in the form of account numbers, social security numbers, passwords, and so forth. Although these schemes are blatantly illegal forms of identity theft, those individuals who are responsible are difficult to catch and prosecute because they are often located overseas.
Statistics have shown that phishing has continually escalated as a problem in the United States. According to one estimate, about 1.2 million people between May 2004 and May 2005 suffered losses due to phishing schemes. One prominent computer security company, Symantec, determined that one of out every 125 emails sent in 2005 was part of a phishing scheme. Although legislative efforts to combat this problem have proven ineffective, consumers can take a number of steps to protect themselves from being victimized by this form of fraud.