Busting Internet Hoaxes

Believe it or not, some of the emails I get are of no value to me. Others are the same old recycled emails from well meaning friends warning about the ACE cellphone virus, alerting me to national cell phone "do not call" lists, and free money from Bill Gates if I pass the email on to 20 of my closest friends. Yeah, right.

Whenever I get emails like these, I take a few minutes to educate my best-of-intentioned friend by explaining that the message they sent me was, in fact, a hoax. I also turn them on to my favorite hoax busting Web site: CIAC Urban Myths and Legends.

The CIAC site has an amazingly extensive collection of hoax emails, urban legend and myth emails, and email chain letters. All are categorized and searchable.

Hereis what the CIAC has to say about the email examples I mentioned:

  • ACE cellphone virus Bogus. This hoax made the list in March 2005. It claims that if you get a cellphone call that displays "ACE," donit answer the call. A virus will be sent to your phone.
  • National Cell Phone Do Not Call List Partly true, partly not. This one dates back to 2004 and usually includes the phone numbers for the U.S. Federal Trade Commissionis Do Not Call list. Be careful because sometime this email includes different phone numbers that scammers use to add you to bogus do not call lists that include a monthly fee.
  • Free money from Bill Gates Fake. This hoax showed up in 1997 and purports that if you send the email on to your friends, you could get some cash from Microsoft. One the email makes it to 1,000 people, each person on the list gets a thousand bucks.

Occasionally Iill get a friend or family member that asks me what the big deal is with forwarding messages like these. Wasted Internet bandwidth not withstanding, enough people pass them on that they impact productivity, fill up email boxes, and occasionally get someone caught up in a scam.

The CIAC hoax site also has a couple of other great resources: What to do when you get a hoax email, and the history of email hoaxes.

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