Monday, February 25, 2008

Of hoaxes, scams and spam (Part 4)

Today's blog will be the last in this series on the evils associated with e-mails, but probably not my last word on it. Seemingly, the most innocuous problem, but one that still needs to be addressed is the e-mail hoax. Hoaxes have become much more prevalent in recent times, but they have existed for decades. A typical hoax arrives in an Inbox from someone you know. That is the main thing that distinguishes it from spam. The e-mail warns of a problem, wants you to forward a petition to stop something from happening or suggests that you will be rewarded financially by forwarding it to as many people in your contact list that you can. Let me state that e-mails are a method and a means to communicate. It is the same concept as sending a conventional letter, only quicker. However, in any case it is a best attempt method. You assume that if you hit the "Send" button, it will reach the desired target. In that way it is similar to a postal box on a street corner. Depositing a letter in the box will more than likely assure the addressee will receive it, but there is no guarantee of that. In the case of a phone call, the message is assured of being received when the person picks up the phone. Under no circumstances will sending or forwarding a single e-mail bring you untold wealth, prevent or enact legislation, get you a guy or gal, or change the world other than to clog mailboxes of your family and friends. Hoaxes have become so prevalent that several sites like and Hoaxbusters have sprung up to refute hoaxes and to validate the ones that are correct. Suffice it to say, please check out either of these sites before you forward an e-mail. It will prevent the proliferation of the spam, but will also indicate to you if you are the victim of a hoax from a well-meaning friend or family member or not. Sometimes, validated e-mails that contain an element of truth may be used to inspire yet another hoax. Until last week I had never received a legitimate Amber Alert about a missing child. Last week's message was confirmed by, but the missing girl was last seen over two years ago and the person who was suspected of abducting her committed suicide as authorities drew closer. I don't believe any case could have been colder. However, I would warmly welcome receiving that legitimate e-mail a hundred times over were there be any way to cut out the numerous fake "virus alerts" that I have received in the last year alone. Now the hoaxers are getting more devious. They will find a legitimate e-mail alert and use that as a basis for a new hoax. A good example of that is the "You've received an e-mail from a friend, etc." spam. This spyware was going around last year and warned everyone that it was a legitimate threat. So what did the hoaxers do? They simply changed the new e-mails to point to the site with the words "I checked it out on" to reinforce to everyone that the threat was real and off went another volley of hoaxes to family and friends. Be careful to check the threats out and make sure that what or says is exactly as it appears in your e-mail. If not, don't pass it on. Dispose of it immediately and don't clog up your family and friends' mail boxes. In any endeavor or undertaking education is key. It is my hope that you've learned a little something about the threats (real or not) from e-mails. Time for me to go and clean out my Inbox.

No comments: