Skip To Content
Exciting updates about Merrill. Learn more

What Is "Phishing"?


"Phishing" (pronounced "fishing") is the act of sending an email that fraudulently represents a legitimate company and convinces an individual to divulge personal and financial information that could then be used for identity theft.

How does phishing occur?

Some phishing emails and web sites use sophisticated technology that work on committing fraud—without your knowledge. Opening a link in a phishing email can result in the installation of:

  • spyware, which can monitor and track the web sites you visit. This provides useful personal information for a thief.
  • key logging software, which logs keys you type (ex. typing a password into a password field). This confidential information is then reported back to the thief who installed the malicious software.

Stay away from phishing

Your best line of defense against phishing is to exercise caution with any suspicious emails. Unfortunately, thieves use creative tactics to trick you into providing your personal information. Do not reply to any email that instructs you to enter any piece of personal information directly into the email, such as:

  • An urgent notice that your account will be closed or suspended if you do not provide personal information
  • A survey that asks you to enter personal information
  • An urgent notice that your account has been compromised and asks you to confirm your account information
  • An email that directs you to a non-secure webpage and asks you to enter your username, password or account numbers
  • An email that asks you to confirm, verify, or refresh your account, credit card, or billing information

Other types of frauds

While email fraud is a commonly used tactic, there are other types of attempted fraud:

  • SmiShing: SMiShing is short for "SMS phishing" which is like phishing but sent via SMS text messages to access information.
  • Vishing: "Vishing" uses the features of Voice over IP phones to steal personal and financial information.


Report any instances of phishing, smishing and vishing to

If you need to report identity theft or fraud, or if you have questions, please call us at 1.800.MERRILL (637.7455), or contact your financial advisor.


You need to answer some questions first

Then we can provide you with relevant answers.

Get started