It's really 'phishing' - and it's a serious problem for any firm doing business online, especially banks. In phishing, fraudsters create a copy of a website, then send out bulk e-mails to lure customers to it. When you key in your account details and passwords, the information is stolen and your account is emptied. This elaborate scam is new, but a simpler version first emerged in 1996, when members of the AOL online service were bombarded with phishing e-mails asking for their account details. The name comes from the idea of fishing for information; the spelling reflects the 1990s popularity of a (blameless) US rock band called Phish and the old hacker pursuit of phone-phreaking. The phreaks, including a young Steve Jobs, tricked the US phone system into giving them free long-distance calls, for kicks rather than profit. Phishing, though, is a different kettle of phish.
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