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Phishing explained

Both state and federal governments have passed laws that make computer fraud a crime. Seattle residents are probably familiar with terms like phishing and identity theft. Phishing is often the first step in a scheme to commit identify theft, though it could be done for other reasons. Phishing is an attempt to gain private information through email by assuming a false identity. There are different types of phishing.

In keeping with the term's origin as a respelling of "fishing", the two main types of phishing are called spear phishing and whaling. Spear phishing targets specific individuals or organizations, while whaling targets executive officers or others in the upper tiers of an organization.

Phishing is typically accomplished by someone who assumes a false identity, which may be the identity of an individual or a business, and sends emails requesting information from the recipient like Social Security numbers, credit card number or other private information.

Phishing emails often contain URLs for the recipient to click on. It is advised that anyone receiving such an email never click on any such links. Turning off the email software's option to read emails in HTML format would ensure that no links are able to be clicked.

People who receive emails they suspect of being phishing attempts are encouraged to report the emails to the Federal Trade Commission. Identify theft is a type of fraud, and it is a federal crime under the 1998 Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. In 2004, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act was established to increase the penalty for aggravated identity theft, which is identity theft for the purpose of committing a federal crime. Even though all phishing attempts are not necessarily done for the purpose of committing identity theft, phishing itself is illegal in some states, including Washington.

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