Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me. [ref]
A fool and his money are soon parted
or their computer soon invaded.
This article started in 2001 when another Internet hoax just found its way into my E-mail basket from a person I know. I've updated it from time to time since them. As a twenty-two year resident of the Internet I have seen quite a few hoaxes, fables, odd tales, and outright lies, come through my various mails. While some were true it was so long ago the message have become "once upon a time" material on long dead events. Other have always been pure Fairy Tales. In the past I would occasionally be pulled toward the best some of them, but even then I usually checked first. Now I always check first.
While the Internet makes it very easy to mass distribute a Hoax, it also makes it very quick and easy to check them out.
My goal is to show you hot to spot likely trouble, defend yourself from more crafty trouble, and write E-mail for help and assistance that does not look like spam.
Additional details on Internet Hoaxes may be found at a wonderful article at http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/HBHoaxInfo.html which goes into more details on this, and other, subjects.Let me show you how easy it is to check on E-mail you have received. Whenever you receive mail you find is on the wrong side of good please send a reply back to your "friend" sending you the message. Pass back to them the fact the story is not true, a reference to how you know that (a web address should be suffcient), and perhaps more on how they to can join the fellowship of self-defense. Feel free to include the ENTIRE contents of this letter or point them to the URL of this letter so they can always get the latest.
Any E-mail in my inbox that looks like spam is often treated as spam. Like many other I know, this is to the point of deleting genuine E-mail without bothering to look at it. With a little training you too can start throwing SPAM away with gleeful abandon.
If you don't want people to trash good E-mail write something in the subject line that shows you really know them. Make your subject lines specific, focused, and personal. Mention a specific link between the two of you that generic spammers will not know. "Minutes of Jan 14 Xyz Board meeting" rather than "Minutes".
How can I be so callous you ask? It's simple, really. My name has been on the Internet for a very long time. In some technical areas it even enjoyed some popularity. Many web sites have my E-mail address in ways that Email address harvisting programs find. Some by searching the web like a bad Google or Bing to find E-mail addresses. Others harvest using malware invading computers to swipe all of the E-mail addresses from victim accounts. Just search for my name and you will see why I get a huge amount of bad E-mail. And this is bad E-mail that gets past the filters.
Any incoming E-mail that has one or more "hot points" in it trigger my brain's rumor guard. Such E-mail should be considered rumor until proven factual. Mail with two or more points is very likely to be "rubbish mail":
- E-mail requiring immediate action. This is especially true if there are no dates at all in the original E-mail text. Lack of expiration or completion dates on messages that obviously have such are almost a sure fire tip it is a rumor (public hearing dates, expiration dates for corporate offers, etc.)
- Fast Money For You. Often with an unreal number of zeros in the value.
- You have won a lottery, contest, etc. Even if you entered the contest it may well be a fake win.
- You have inherited something.
- Payment by anonymous debit cards or other forms of E-cash.
- Messages asking you to pass this on to every one in your E-mail list. If it's enjoyable, just send it to those who would appreciate the subject. "Everyone you know" messages must be considered very suspect for nearly every subject. Such can cost millions of dollars if they obtain any popularity at all and can last for decades. The first time you see the message it is cute. The tenth time you say, "Enough already!" After fifty times you don't have the words.
- Sharing information. Incoming messages giving you information you didn't ask for from sites you never heard of. All it takes is one evil-site to give you many bad days.
- Messages insisting you must take some action.
- Messages without a hard "stop at" date. Anything asking to be forwarded, but which do not contain some type of "stop date" in them, must be considered very dubious.
- Mail thanking you for doing things you did not do from people you do not know. Do not "click" to get similar savings.
- Articles that say they have been verified as true by various rumor control web sites.
- Articles involving politically hot issues.
- Stories that tug at your heartstrings. Sick kids asking for cards, lost children, and more.
- Scare stories... watch out for viruses in mail boxes, liver snatchers, gang violence, etc.
- People in other countries buying something from you, even if you advertise. Foreign theives send you checks that your bank marks as cleared. But the check hasn't truly cleared as the law says banks must post foreign checks as cleared, even if they haven't, after so many days to stop bank abuses of delaying clearing. By picking a slow banks your bank artifically clears pure rubber checks, which you are still responsible for after the check bounces. Double trouble if you have posted off the title to your car, etc. And don't fall for the trap of the foreigner paying you too much money which honest you refunds.
- Messages that have been vigorously thrown from person to person by E-mail are always suspect, regardless of subject. All of those ">" arrows at the start of each line in the message are a dead give away as each ">" represents one throw through someone's E-mail basket.
- Some E-mail programs show vertical lines, often colored, in the left margin rather than ">" characters.
- Whatever the different programs used such are usually easy to spot unless someone destroyed the evidence.
- Too good to be true: any article offering something for far too little is likely a twisted tail offering little for much.
More often than these are tall tails rather than honest stories.
A random sampling of subjects from my current spambox follow:
ACH Notification : ACH Process End of Day Report CAN YOU HANDLE THIS DEAL WITH TRUST Carolyn Christopher wants to be friends with you on Facebook. Charity Donation Congratulation on your Facebook National Lottery Congratulations Dear Unpaid Beneficiary Dear Friend FW: IMPORTANT - Suspicious Activity 1W53KA5O7664OHL gilbert Good Day Dear Sir/Madam Hi I can't believe you helped me save over $300 on this Rolex Sport Model International Monetary Funds Agents LOAN OFFER APPLY NOW AT LOW RATE. Los AnGeLes Federal CredIt UniOn LOTTERY CLAIM!!! NOTIFICATION OF PAYMENT VIA ATM CARD!!! Resolution of case #PP-029-962-617-329 Re:Good Day Your Urgent Advice Is Needed In Investing In Your Country Re: YOUR ATM VISA CARD worth $1.2Million Us Dollars Reply Sorry I had to write this late TAX REFUND ID: AU381716209-ATO The Owner of this E-mail id This Company looks darn cheap Top Weight Loss Product TREAT AS URGET You can't get any bullish than this! Your ( ATM MASTER CARD) It's Urgent YOUR AWARD LETTER..® Your First Transfer is Ready FROM WILLIAM COLE PLEASE RESPOND
The last was "from" William Cole... in the thousands of valid E-mails I have received I don't remember any sender puting their name in the subject line. It's been seen thousands of times in bad mail, but I just don't remember it in good E-mail. Don't do this in your E-mail without some reason.
This is so common it gets it's own section. If these were true I'd be getting millionons of dollars every day.
To get to number one on a ten-person list, assuming everyone receiving the message from the first sender sent to ten unique people, would hit 10,000,000,000 (ten billion) people at the end. Wow! If only 10% of the people sent one dollar to you you would have a cool billion dollars. However, and it's a big however, there are about 300,000,000 (three-hundred million) people in the United States.
Did you do the math?
I suspect the people who start these lists put their name somewhere in the middle of the list, just enough to get some money, inventing the names around it.
Please beware that:
Take some fragments that should be distinct to the message and search for them on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any major search engine:
Is the site genuine? A great test is to go to Google and just type in the last two parts of the domain name (att.net rather than www.att.net). Stick a "whois" in front of the domain and you are good to go.
The first listing, that is not an advertisement, should be where you can go to get information on the domain name, it's owner, age, etc. Burried among the technical details are actual postal addresses and country codes. Don't trust new sites with much unless given reason to do so. If the site is in places like China, India, old Soviet block countries, or other places with high incidences of fraud, really be wary. There are some very good sites there but also dishonest ones.
Look at the different "top level" domain addresses associated with E-mail addresses, name servers, and anything else that shows up on the page. these are the last part of the names.... ".com", ".us", etc. If they are two letter codes they represent a specific country. If the owner is in one country, the web site in another, and the "name servers" yet another country, with postal addresses being strange as well, that is a very big red flag as evil people love to spread themselves over many legal jurisdictions to make prossicution more difficult, if not impossible. An alarm with fireworks. Search for "ISO Country Codes" to look up what the two-letter codes meen (Wikipedia).
Try a suspect site in several web search engines (search for just the two right-most components. taggedmail.com, not www.taggedmail.com, and put it in quotes: "taggedmail.com"). Try at least both Google and Yahoo!.
If lots of problems are apparent, consider refraining from using the site.
Even if the site is run by genuine, legitimate, business people, if the site security is poor and is hijacked to the point of many compliants, then maybe you should not deal with it at all. If the site cleans itself up the problem reports will move further down the search response.
The Internet Archive's WaybackMachine at
Despite the urgency in the subject, most of these fables are not new. Some have been around since before there was an Internet; I remember my mother getting some of these on mimographs.
Thankfully the dedication of a few makes it easy to take incoming E-mail out for reality checks using the various sites that track, collect, and catalogue Internet hoaxes. I keep a list of such sites in my home pages at http://www.exit109.com/~ghealton/.home.html (note it is dot home dot html) under Rumor Control Sites. My current favorites are:
http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/ http://www.snopes.com/ Urban Legends Reference Pages
Both of these have hoax search engines. To use these search engines, search the suspect article for words that should be fairly unique to it and enter them into the search engine. Don't worry about making a sentence... you are doing an article search, not writing a letter to your aunt. In this case the key words were, The opening words of the hoax I received follows this message. Searching for "Klingerman Virus" was all that was required for positive test results. A link therein quickly took me to the official CDC disclaimer on this particular Internet fiction.
Even better... hoax search sites often say if the thing as real, providing enough information for you to decide if you want to keep playing the game or not.
For Urban Legens searches, Use google in the normal way with an extra word of, exactly, without other spaces or punctuation,
site:www.snopes.com(good on 2006-Jan... changes from time to time).
Naturally not all hoaxes are listed in the hoax search engines. If I can't get a positive match on any of them, I next go to the big search engines to search for keywords in the message. In general Google's advanced search at http://www.google.com/advanced_search provides a way to do this without strange use of quotes, "AND", "NOT", and other technical incantations.
Authors of these fictitious tails sometimes taint the names, addresses, and titles of real people at real institutions. If the name of a real institution is used, try and track it down on the official web pages. Next best is checking if the person has a home page that makes the statement, though that can not be considered official in most cases.
If there is a contact E-mail, but no web page to verify on, send the person an E-mail asking them if the informaion is still true. Include a suggestion for a web-page verifcation. Pointing them to this article may also help them. If the E-mail message bounces higher than the building you are in you know the original E-mail is bogus and may be discarded. (Anyone creating a "send this around" mailing that does not provide a web page verifcation is asking for trouble, so I don't worry about cluttering up their E-mail basket).
If your web searches turn up the fact that the article you are researching is years old, assume any facts in them are completely dead or expired, if not completely fictitious.
A date on the story also makes it more immediate to your readers,
increasing the sense of urgency.
A lack of serious dates in an article almost guarantees it is a hoax.
Please distribute this information until April 2016. After that date the message should no longer be sent around. Until April 2016 you may verify this information is valid by visiting http://www.exit109.com/~ghealton/bogus.html to see if the message is still current. The page contains the latest information on the subject. If this link does not work the message you are reading is obsolete and must be ignored.
This message should be sandwiched between important paragraphs of the E-mail to help ensure it is not discarded by people blindly repeating your message in hurry; putting it at the top or bottom makes it omitting it faster in their messages by giving them less text to copy.
When describing some official policy or statement of an institution, the information should be on the institution's official web server.
For personal postings consider using a free E-mail account on one of the major providers for short term items. Use a subject specific E-mail address, maybe one with a date in it. Close the account when you are done to let people who ignore your stop date get bounces in their E-mail boxes.
Copyright 2001, 2006, 2013 by
All rights reserved.
This article may be freely used in E-mail replies to fight E-mail hoaxes as well as other non-profit publishing, provided the message in its entirety is used without change.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Original Message <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< THE FOLLOWING IS A KNOWN HOAX.. DO NOT BELIEVE IT! > > >> > > > >> > > This is very scary and is not a joke. Please > > read - it definitely is a > > >> > > serious threat to our lives and health. This > > is an alert about a virus > > >> in > > >> > > > > >> > > the original sense of the word......one that > > affects your body.....not > > >> > > your > > >> > > hard drive. There have been 23 confirmed > > cases of people attacked by > > >> the > > >> > > Klingerman Virus; a virus that arrives in > > your real mailbox, not in > > >> your > > >> > > e-mail in-box. > > >> > > > > >> > > Someone has been mailing large BLUE > > envelopes, seemingly at random, to > > >> > > people in the US and Canada. On the front of > > the envelope in bold > > >> black > > >> > > letters is printed "A Gift For You From > > >> > > The Klingerman Foundation."
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