1694: Phishing License

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Phishing License
Later, walking out of jail after posting $10,000 bail: "Wait, this isn't the street the county jail is on."
Title text: Later, walking out of jail after posting $10,000 bail: "Wait, this isn't the street the county jail is on."


Phishing is a scam where a criminal sends emails or other messages (often large numbers of them) pretending to be from a trusted institution in order to obtain passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal details of victims. The term is a neologism, playing on the term "fishing", because the process is likened to dangling bait and waiting for someone to bite. Phishing is illegal under both traditional fraud laws and modern cybercrime laws.

A fishing license is a government-issued permit allowing the catching of fish in controlled waters.

Cueball saw the sign offering phishing licenses, and was immediately arrested by the receptionist Ponytail upon applying for one. There is no need for a license for a crime like fraud,[citation needed] so it is dubious an authority would issue them, hence why Cueball should have been more suspicious of the offer. The joke is that the process of offering "phishing licenses" is analogous to the process of phishing itself: they pretend to be a legitimate business and display a sign with a false offer, hoping someone will be fooled into interacting with them. While the ideal phishing attempt is indistinguishable from the real thing, that's generally impossible to attain and there are always some ways to identify it as a scam. But still some people fall into the trap, partly because they don't know what to be on the alert for, and partly because the attempt is often directed at so many people at once that statistically there will be some that will fall for it. Still as Cueball himself states, he should have known it was a scam.

The title text reveals that Cueball's arrest was itself a scam, not an actual police sting, adding even more "phishing" to the phishing for potential phishers. He has been put in jail, but is allowed to walk out after paying a bail of $10,000, only to find that when he gets back out on the street, it is not the street on which the county jail has its address. So Ponytail is actually not trying to capture people who would be interested in scamming people, she is trying to scam those people instead; although this is illegal, it may be rather clever as such people might not be likely to go to the police. Another joke in the title text is that a way to recognize phishing attempts is to look at the address of the website (or in his false prison sentence, the street address instead of the web address).


[A sign has an arrow below the text that points toward a sales window in a wall (with glass in front and small semicircular opening at the bottom for transferring money and goods). On each side of the window there are two pieces of paper with illegible text, and there is also one below the window that seems to have some kind of stamp or seal, still illegible). In front of the window Cueball is addressing Ponytail who sits behind the window.]
Sign: Phishing license apply here
Cueball: Hi, I’d like to apply for a—
Ponytail: You’re under arrest.
Cueball: …OK, I should’ve seen that coming.

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Cueball hasn't actually committed phishing yet (or has not provided any evidence to prove he did), so they can't arrest him. 05:17, 22 November 2018 (UTC)

Perhaps it should also mention that the need for a license is analog to the need for one when you actually go fishing. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

While exiting the fake/scam jail, Cueball could have also been amazed that he could pay his bail with *Apple gift cards*. 16:13, 15 June 2016 (UTC)Daniel H

Do I sense a reference to Monty Python's Fish licence sketch here as well? 21:57, 15 June 2016 (UTC)

"Clearly, there is no reason why a license would be available for a clear crime like fraud" I think the tax stamps for illegal drugs come very close to being a license for a clear crime.-- 05:08, 16 June 2016 (UTC)

I agree, there needs to be further clarification of that statement in the explanation, many times criminal activity becomes legal if the government can find a way to tax it Spongebob (talk) 15:10, 17 June 2016 (UTC)

On the other hand, you used to be able to get a pirating license. The ship attacking one, not the copyright infringement. But then again...--Henke37 (talk) 07:31, 16 June 2016 (UTC)

Wasn't that specifically called "privateering?" Or was that something else? CJB42 (talk) 18:23, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
Yes, but changing the name is just a marketing rebranding exercise and it does not change the actual product. Spongebob (talk) 15:08, 17 June 2016 (UTC)

The idea of a Phishing License is not as stupid as it sounds, many previously illegal activities has been made legal through some framework, like for example Loan Sharks used to be illegal, but somehow Payday Loans are now a legit businesses. Spongebob (talk) 15:04, 17 June 2016 (UTC)

Things that became legal after they could be taxed
  • Gambling (most states)