Ohio residents should be aware of phishing scams that attempt to draw highly sensitive financial information from victims through online fraud. Phishing scams are specifically outlawed by certain states, such as California, but there are no federal laws that specifically mention phishing. However, in 2004 and 2005, there were two failed attempts to draft federal legislation that would result in a five-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of involvement in a phishing scam. Among the various steps that can be taken to protect against these scams is understanding how to recognize phishing online.

Phishing scams typically involve an email that seems to be from a trusted sender, such as a government organization or a financial institution. The message is often highly official in appearance and may even have the organization’s logo and formatting. Unlike an official correspondence, phishing messages ask for verification or submission of personal account information and may seem to be urgent.

Some phishing scams provide a link to a fraudulent website that is made to look like another institution’s website. Once on the website, the user may be asked to provide additional personal information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers, which can then be used to perpetrate identity theft or other types of fraud. Phishing scams may seem official, but most official organizations never require patrons to send sensitive information through email.

Although federal law prosecutes many phishing scams and other internet crimes through more general statutes, victims may still face serious financial loss. An internet crimes lawyer may be able to help ensure that victims of phishing scams receive the representation and compensation they deserve. From the emotional damages of identity theft to financial loss, the perpetrators of online fraud may be held civilly as well as criminally liable.