What Laurell Haapanen calls her “one second of bad judgment” drained her bank account and left her wondering how someone as computer savvy as she, living in one of the most wired cities in the world, could have fallen for one of today’s most prolific and well-known e-mail scams, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Then again, if e-mail phishing for people’s personal and financial information didn’t work at least part of the time, the scam wouldn’t exist.
Phishing is the term used to describe a scam in which someone sends a mass e-mail message posing as a legitimate business, such as a bank, hoping to lure recipients to a bogus Web site also posing as that business and asking the recipient to enter personal information. The term “phishing” is only about a decade old, coined by hackers who fished for passwords and other personal data among Internet users. The Federal Trade Commission estimates 75 million to 150 million phishing e-mails are sent every day in the United States. Last year, the commission reports, spam messages resulted in $929 million in consumer losses and $2 billion in business losses, affecting 1.2 million victims.