Phishing has certainly grown up since 1996, when a handful of devious hackers gleaned credit card numbers and other information from AOL users (easy marks, sure) by posing as AOL staffers. In the past year alone, reported phishing attempts -- which nowadays generally take the form of fake emails from PayPal, eBay or financial institutions -- have increased from 6,000 attempts to 150,000 attempts per month. And that's just the reported numbers -- certainly many more people never realize they've been targeted.
Social networking sites are phishers' newest target: I myself recently had my myspace account hacked -- either that or I was posting bulletins for free ringtones and sexy chat in my sleep. (I'm back in business now, if humbled; it seems that even the most net-savvy among us can be duped.) Why social networking sites? It gives phishers accounts that can be sold to spammers; accounts linked to thousands -- sometimes millions -- of other accounts, the owners of which are, on average, in that sought-after 18-30 age demo. Needless to say, I feel dirty. Used. It's nearly enough to make a guy want to stop using the internet.