It’s fitting that computer engineers (not known for their social skills) have adopted a made-up word do describe the number one most used method of tricking normal people out of their money, this making it harder for them to avoid it!

That made-up word is “Phishing”, if you hadn’t guessed already. This is an old hacker term that means sending out as many emails as you can in the hope you get a “bite” from some unsuspecting individual who will then contract your computer virus / give you their passwords etc.


“Phishing” “Vishing” and “Smishing”, will target you by email, phone or SMS messages that claim to be from respected institutions but are actually impersonators who are out to trick people into revealing login information to give them access to your account “as you”.

These emails (“spoofs”) may look authentic at first glance and are designed to create an urgent response from you – a message from your bank telling you about a data breach for instance and to click on this link to confirm your account details for instance – but closer inspection usually shows them to be fake.

This can come in various forms, but alarmingly is becoming more focussed in deception in order to obtain your login details or pin numbers to go on to commit fraud online, rather than simply infecting your computer with a virus that will get picked up quickly (because you do have good anti-virus, right?).

Malware – On that note, we think of viruses as something nasty that will stop your PC from working but some of the phishing emails mentioned above will have links inside that that will infect your computer with a program which is designed to hide in the background and collect your personal details while you go about your daily business on your computer.

These programs that are designed to collect your keystrokes etc need your computer working so they can get their info. This means you may have had something lurking for months without ever knowing it’s there, which is why it’s important to have good antivirus that will pick these things up.

As well as emails the term “spoof”, can also apply to websites that at first glance look authentic but that are actually fraudulent and only there to harvest personal data.


“Cybercrime” as whole can be separated into two forms:

  • Cyber-dependent crimes – crimes that can be committed only through the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) devices, where the devices are both the tool for committing the crime, and the target of the crime (e.g. developing and propagating malware for financial gain, hacking to steal, damage, distort or destroy data and/or network or activity)
  • Cyber-enabled crimes – traditional crimes which can be increased in scale or reach by the use of computers, computer networks or other forms of ICT (such as fraud online and data theft)

As I keep saying, that old knowledge is power cliché is as true as ever here so I hope this has helped you decipher the geek language so you can stay safe from fraud online.