Hoaxes are a warning emails about a seemingly vicious threat
that in reality does not actually exist and are another annoying
internet phenomenon created by people who, like virus writers (but not
as clever), merely want to create notoriety for themselves by causing
some havoc and wasting peoples time.
How they are spread ?The hoax is propagated by people on forwarding the warning email which encourages the receiver either not to open a certain file, (which there is little chance of the recipient ever doing anyway), or the more sinister examples try to get the recipient to delete files which are necessary for the normal operation of their computer. Without checking to verify whether the threat is real or not, many individuals will simply on-forward the false warning to their contact list so the hoax can spread very quickly.
How you can recognize themThere are certain common characteristics to hoax emails which, once you are aware of them, are reasonably easy to recognize.
They will usually INCLUDE BLARING WARNINGS IN CAPITALS BOLDED AND MAYBE EVEN UNDERLINED WITH MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS AT THE END OF THE SENTENCE FOR EXTRA IMPACT !!!!
Often they will advise you in the strongest terms to take some action immediately, (which of course, you should not.) Then they will also suggest that you pass this information quickly onto as many of your contacts as you can to alert them of this (false) impending threat.
Another kind of hoax is the one where they tell you to send the email to 8 (or 20 or...) friends and you will receive a free ...... - here you can substitute almost anything you like.
The classic fake email that has circulated for years is the Ericsson give away, which started its life as a mobile phone and progressed to a laptop.
It may seem harmless to forward these emails around, but spare a thought for the businesses who are being impacted by these emails. In this case Ericsson ended up receiving thousands of emails for an Anna Swelund who was never one of their employees.
You can be assured that NO company is going to give away product in this mismanaged, haphazard and untraceable way.
Here is an example of a hoax email with some of the usual components highlighted.
I checked with Norton Anti-Virus, and they are gearing up for this virus!
I checked Snopes (URL above:), and it is for real!!
Get this E-mail message sent around to your contacts ASAP.
PLEASE FORWARD THIS WARNING AMONG FRIENDS, FAMILY AND CONTACTS!
You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message with an attachment entitled 'POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK,' regardless of who sent it to you.
It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which 'burns' the whole hard disc C of your computer.
This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list.
This is the reason why you need to send this e-mail to all your contacts It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it.
If you receive a mail called' POSTCARD,' even though sent to you by a friend, do not open it! Shut down your computer immediately.
This is the worst virus announced by CNN. It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever
This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus.
This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept.
COPY THIS E-MAIL, AND SEND IT TO YOUR FRIENDS. REMEMBER: IF YOU SEND IT TO THEM, YOU WILL BENEFIT ALL OF US
THE INFORMATION IN THE ABOVE SAMPLE HOAX EMAIL IS UNTRUE.
Our advice - The only place you should send this is the trash.
What do you do to find out if a warning is a hoax or not?Thankfully, there are lots of good people out there in internet-land and they actually outnumber the nasties. As the hoax email spreads, it will be detected by somebody who recognizes it for what it is, and they will alert one of a number of very good hoax debunking sites. We strongly recommend that before you act on any warning you receive by email, you check it out first.
Google itType (or copy and paste) the subject header line of the email into your Google bar and hit the search button. Note - some of these results will be from sites that are unknowingly helping spread the hoax, but as you scan through the results you will find that there will be a number of links to sites that will explain whether the threat is valid or not.
Check with the ExpertsYou can go directly to a number of hoax/urban myth sites who may well already have information on the email you have received. We recommend the sites listed at the bottom of this page. You may want to bookmark one or two for quick future reference.
Do your friend a favourFinally, if it is a hoax, you may want to send a "Thank you for the warning but I think it may be a hoax" email to the person who sent it to you. Be nice because they no doubt sent you the information with the best of intentions and include a link to the hoax information page. Your friend may be a little red faced to realise they have forwarded a hoax message to you but most will appreciate being advised of where they can authenticate these type of email warnings (and they will most probably check it out themselves before they send anything on to you in the future !)
Where to check out
Hoaxes & Myths
An excellent site to check up on a whole range of hoaxes and scams. Has an extensive archive.
Another top ranking myth debunking site.
A huge humber of enquiries on the whole.
In addition to the wealth of information on www.about.com, David Emery's Urban Legends page is well written and comprehensive.