Many California residents may have heard people talk about phishing but or alleged phishing scams but may not fully understand what exactly this refers to. At first glance, phishing emails may appear similar to spam emails but there are differences in what may be considered just junk or marketing communications and what may lead to a criminal charge.

As explained by the Federal Trade Commission, phishing accusations involve not simply unwanted electronic communications but electronic communications said to be designed to collect a recipient’s personal information. Further, once this information has been collected, there may be an intent to use it illegally such as in identity theft or to secure credit or money in some way.

Phishing.org, an information technology organization, indicates that vishing is a form of phishing using phone calls or voice mails and smishing uses SMS messaging. Traditional phishing relies mostly on email or text messaging. Regardless of the vehicle, messages often try to make receipients feel that a prompt response is essential for some reason.

Allegations of phishing may suggest that a person created messages that appeared to be from legitimate sources such as banks or individuals that the receipients personally knew. These messages may feature links or direct people to websites that once clicked or visited allow transmission of their data. Some people accused of phishing are said to use these messages to download and install malware, ransomware or other software onto other people’s computers or phones. This software then may transmit data or may cripple operating systems.