"During 2003 and early 2004, law enforcement authorities, businesses, and Internet users have seen a significant increase in the use of phishing. Phishing is a general term for criminals creation and use of e-mails and websites " designed to look like e-mails and websites of wellknown legitimate businesses, financial institutions, and government agencies " in order to deceive Internet users into disclosing their bank and financial account information or other personal data such as usernames and passwords. The phishers then take that information and use it for criminal purposes, such as identity theft and fraud. A growing number of phishing schemes are using for illegal purposes the names and logos of legitimate financial institutions, businesses, and government agencies in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. One industry organization, the Anti-Phishing Working Group (www.antiphishing.org) has reported that in January 2004, there were 176 unique phishing attacks reported to it " an increase of more than 50 percent over the number of reported phishing attacks in December 2003. The Department of Justice is issuing this Special Report to inform Internet users about the risks of responding to phishing e-mails and websites, whether phishing schemes violate federal criminal laws, and the steps that Internet users should take when they see possible phishing emails or websites."
U.S. Deptartment of Justice: http://www.usdoj.gov