Phishing (from fishing) is a form of internet deception, usually using email or copies of popular websites. Phishers use emails or websites which appear to be a trustworthy entity to fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as user names, passwords, Social Security Numbers, and credit card details from their unsuspecting victims.
A targeted form of phishing is sometime used against a specific individual or group. This targeted kind of attack, known as spear phishing, is generally more customized for the victim and therefore tends to be more convincing. It may contains an organization's letterhead, and may even be spoofed to appear as though it has come from inside the organization, or from an individual's friend or family.
Catphishing is another form or targeted attack against an individual, in which a false relationship is formed with the person. This is generally done in the form of a man being contacted by someone pretending to be a woman, and acting friendly. If possible, they will develop the relationship into a romantic affair. Once done, they will often try to extract private information from the target, or even just money. In some cases, blackmail is also used.
One commonly suggested method of avoiding phishing scams is to check the URL to ensure that one is on the proper website before entering any personal information or credit card numbers online. The best option is to contact the company whom the email claims to be associated with. Phishing scams often claim to be a user's bank, or a service they may use (such as eBay), needing personal details confirmed as a security measure. In fact these practices are not something that legitimate companies engage in. Consumers are urged to report phishing emails and websites they encounter to their email providers and to the Federal Trade Commission.