Thursday, February 7, 2008

Internet Hoaxes

Hoaxes are becoming commonplace among internet mail, spam and phishing. While they are convincing, it will take network users working together to adequately inform those who are still emotionally responsive to these hoaxes. Hoaxes waste our time, emotional response and takes up an enormous amount of bandwith. How many times have relatives, coworkers, or friend’s forward seemingly helpful information? You may have recently received some of these most common hoaxes, now taking on legendary status:

* If you don't disinfect canned goods before opening them, you can get poisoned by residue from deadly rat droppings.

* A gang of kidnappers at malls and amusement parks (Disneyland used often) are abducting children, taking them into bathrooms, drugging them, dyeing their hair, changing their clothing, and smuggling them through exits disguised as the opposite sex. (This story was featured on episode of Law & Order, which helps keep this hoax alive.)

* If you use pancake mix beyond its expiration date, you and your family members risk a life-threatening allergic reaction from mold that can grow in it.

* Beware of car thieves in parking lots who render their victims unconscious with ether-laced perfume.
(Goldsborough, 2006)

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of earning “free” money by forwarding email. A recent twist was earning a $25 gift card from Applebee’s if you forwarded the email. The claim stated that after forwarding the particular message to multiple internet users, Appleby’s will present you with a gift card when you visit their restaurant. Now, what a absurd presentation to be face to face with an Applebee’s manager trying to explain how you earned a “free” gift card just by forwarding mail.

Some of the emotional “lost children- help find them” hoaxes are the most difficult to know if they are legitimate or just a fraud. This is a parent’s worst nightmare to have a missing child so the emotional plea draws many into believing the hoax. A fraudulent site will lack necessary information such as no mention of child’s height, eye color, or clothing description when they disappeared. Warning: Do not forward without doing your homework.

There are plenty of sites online that are simple to use to determine whether a missing child story is the truth. First an online search using a search engine with the child’s missing name, or subject line will be sufficient. An alternative is to use sites set up to combat these grand missing children hoaxes. Some of these sites are:, Don’t Spread the Hoax, Hoax-Slayer, and (McAffey 2008, Goldsborough, 2006). When mail you are receiving is suspect, research it by going to Symantecs ComprehensiveList of Hoaxes at
This site lists the popular hoaxes including legends and dire warnings which continue to make their rounds online every day.

McAfee: How to avoid hoax emails. Retrieved February 7., 2008, from

Reid Goldsborough (2006, September). What to Do About Internet Hoaxes. Information Today, 23(8), 41-42.

Viruses, Spams Prevention,Uurban Legends, Hoaxes, Frauds. (2008). Retrieved February 7, 2008, from


Susan said...

I agree that these hoaxes are a big problem. They play on the emotions of people that care about others. Besides taking up a lot of bandwith, it makes people paranoid and causes unnecessary fear. I received an e-mail once from a friend that was forwarded to her with a plea to send out the word about an abducted child. She asked innocently to forward the e-mail to everyone in our address books. She later was informed of the hoax and sent out another e-mail with her apologies. What a waste of time and emotional stress!

Brittini said...

Your blog was very well written and organized. The information really helped me out personally because I'm not the most internet savvy and I'm in general a pretty gullable person. To point out specific examples of how people use hoaxes through email was really informative. I think it's so wrong that people can use such compelling stories just to get money and their information passed along. It's horrible that they would play on other's emotions like that.

afriendtoall said...

Cyn says:
I enjoyed your blog, Marcy. As I am rather new at emailing, security, and the whole internet thing, information such as yours is eye-opening for me. I have already fallen for some of the hoaxes out there. I feel so silly when I idenify that messages are hoaxes. Unfortunately, I must admit that I have naively passed some on. Now I know to research before sending on to others. Thanks for the info.--I learned and enjoyed!

Maribel Trujillo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maribel Trujillo said...

I agree that internet hoaxes are a big problem and waste alot of our time, energy from our emotional response and takes up bandwidth space.

A few months ago, I receivd an email from another country telling me I may receive a check for $1 million if I sent them some of my information along with $50 from my credit card or checking account. I was shock this email came to me. I knew it was an internet hoax. As a rule of thumb, I never give any infromation to anyone especially online. Internet hoaxes is a waste of time.

Thanks for the helpful tips along with the link you provided.

alyssa said...

I enjoyed your post. Hoaxes are getting far to prevalent. I like how you gave some examples of the most popular hoaxes that are being spread. It's funny to read them and you realize how silly they can sound. I remember how I use to get chain letters in grade school listing all these silly myths and I couldn't stand it when my friends would actually believe these things and pass it on!