Phishing is a ploy that scam artists use when they send mass emails or text messages that look like they're from a financial institution or legitimate company.
The emails and text messages are used by ill-intentioned people to steal your personal information or install malicious software on your computer, prompting you to click links or open attachments.
This kind of attack can cause serious damage: you could lose your data and the thieves could steal your personal information to commit further fraud.
Protect yourself by being vigilant and recognizing phishing attempts. A phishing email can take many forms but one common feature is that it's always unsolicited.
Even though phishing is usually associated with emails, some scammers use the telephone and call potential victims, posing as a financial institution employee, investigator or police officer.
The term "phishing" is a variation on "fishing", in the sense it is done at large with the hopes that someone takes the bait and supplies the personal information requested. The term was inspired by the bad spelling of the first phishing attempts.