Phishing, also referred to as spoofing is a variation on "fishing," the   idea being that bait is thrown out with the hopes that while most will   ignore the bait, some will be tempted into biting.   

Phishing is sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established company in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that they can use to there benefit.
The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information.

For example, 2003 saw the proliferation of a phishing scam in which users received e-mails supposedly from eBay claiming that the user’s account was about to be suspended unless he clicked on the link provided and updated the credit card information that the genuine eBay already had. Because it is relatively simple to make a Web site look like a legitimate organizations site by mimicking the original, the scam counted on people being tricked into thinking they were actually being contacted by eBay and therefore thought that they where updating there own account information on the bogus eBay’s site.
By spamming large groups of people, the “phisher” counted on the e-mail being read by a percentage of people who actually had listed credit card numbers with eBay legitimately.

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