Devious Internet Hoaxes
Internet pranksters are out in full force these days. Mixed in with the reams of junk e-mail that fill your in-box are warnings about catastrophic new viruses, massive sharks in the ocean, and unbelievable offers of free money from Mr. Bill Gates himself or perhaps a stranger in a foreign land. Although some people have fallen hook, line, and sinker for various ruses, these messages usually turn out to be pure scams or chain letters.
Check out our list of the latest Internet hoaxes that are jamming our in-boxes. Some of the hoaxes might sound familiar, or perhaps you've run into slight variations on their themes. Want to hear about more hoaxes? Check out
The ostensible Bill Gates may have reached out to you before in other bogus e-mail messages, but this time he is telling you that you have won something. And you're in luck. A check is in the mail. This
You are asked to contact the person listed in the message. Sadly, the phone number rings through to a telemarketing company that sells herbal supplements. The e-mail address turns out to be lycos.com--not microsoft.com. The physical address in Washington, D.C., doesn't exist. Remember the old adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
To see more about the variations on the Bill Gates hoaxes, visit
It's amazing how many people mess up their own PCs by following the advice of a hysterical non-expert--often someone they don't even know.
If you believed this hoax and deleted the program, don't despair.
If you encounter an e-mail subject line with unpronounceable mumbo jumbo, chances are it's a sham. One such e-mail chain letter tells MSN users that their screen name has been added to the MSN ß®øöô¥£.¼ Hacker List and threatens to harm them if they don't pass the e-mail on. Naturally, as with most chain letters, recipients will be spared the harm if they simply forward the e-mail.
In this case, recipients got specific instructions: They needed to forward the e-mail to 10 people within 45 minutes of opening the message. The group making the threat claims to be able to track recipients' e-mail activity to determine whether the orders were followed. Not to worry, such e-mail tracking is generally not possible. If you get this one, delete it and move on with your day.
For the full text of the chain letter, see
Here's a scam about a scam that didn't happen. It begins with an e-mail claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. This e-mail warns people that a non-IRS source is conducting a scam "e-audit," asking taxpayers to submit social security numbers, bank account numbers, and other confidential information within 48 hours to avoid being penalized. Although a warning about this non-IRS audit did appear on the Michigan Department of Treasury Web site for about a week, the whole thing turned out to be false. You can read more about the IRS non-scam at About's
Of course, while this particular scam did not occur, there are plenty of others that are real. The
Another virus hoax delivered by e-mail--citing Microsoft and Norton as authorities--warns you that you might receive an e-mail with a deadly attachment called "Life is beautiful.pps." The PowerPoint file is supposed to wreak all kinds of havoc with your PC. According to the hoax message, if you open the attachment, you will lose everything on your PC, and the person who sent it to you will gain access to your name, e-mail, and password.
While it is possible that a PowerPoint presentation could contain a virus, there are a few clues to tell you that this is a hoax. First of all, the writer insists on two occasions that you send the e-mail along to everyone you know--something reputable software companies would never ask you to do. (Also note that the publisher of Norton AntiVirus products is Symantec, not Norton.) It tries to add more credibility by citing an imaginary company, UOL, as another authority. And it says that the creator of the PowerPoint file "aims to destroying domestic PCs and...fights Microsoft in court." That's a bit far-fetched (not to mention bad grammar).
Read more about the hoax at
Falling into the category of "scarelore" intended to cause hysteria and paranoia, one e-mail plays into Americans' fear of receiving contaminated letters or packages in the mail, following the September 11th attacks. The e-mail warns readers that seven women died after smelling a free perfume sample that was mailed to them. The e-mail also reports that the government is afraid this might be another terrorist act. Workers at the Johns Hopkins University and the Harris County (Texas) Attorney's office forwarded the e-mail without considering the misleading scent of authenticity that their signature blocks might add.
Believe me, if such a threat had been confirmed, you can be sure that the news media--and the FBI--would be alerting the public to this new scare from coast to coast. To read more about the hoax, go to About's
Watch out for an e-mail coming from a character called Bradon Curtis--a "US Special Forces Commando" no less. Apparently, Bradon Curtis has found a stash of money in Afghanistan and needs help transferring it out of the country. Naturally, Curtis offers to reward anybody who will help him get the money out of there.
Don't be tempted by this new wrinkle on an old con--known as the Nigerian Scam or the 419 Fraud (named after the criminal code in Nigeria). The scam? A potential victim gets an unsolicited e-mail, letter, or fax concerning Nigeria. At a certain point in the text, you are asked to pay an advance fee or a transfer tax of some kind. Sounds pretty obvious, but bear in mind that people have reported being victimized by this type of fraud. If you get any e-mails, faxes, or letters enlisting your aid in rescuing funds from a foreign country, don't take the bait. Read more about the scam at the
Some folks out there couldn't help but mark the recent anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy with a new e-mail chain-letter hoax. This e-mail, ostensibly sent by a little girl named Jasmine, claims that the Red Cross will help pay for an operation that her mother needs after surviving the terrorist attack one year ago. All you need to do is forward her message to every e-mail address you have. Somehow, the Red Cross will hand over 10 cents every time the message gets forwarded.
I ask you: Who would make an 11-year-old solicit forwarded e-mails to save her mom? Note that the e-mail address given in the letter is no longer valid. Read Jasmine's plea at
If you are a Coca-Cola fan, you'll want to ignore the latest wave of Coke-related e-mail warnings. According to the e-mail, people are advised not to drink Coke after a certain date. Many versions of the tainted-Coke hoax are circulating--and the date varies from e-mail to e-mail. One e-mail, for instance, mentions that a Middle Eastern person warned another person who had been helpful in the past. Waiters employed at Red Lobster and other restaurants, along with workers or helpful customers at grocery stores, also get credit for warning people. The message implies that the product has been tampered with.
Of course, there have been no mysterious illnesses or deaths associated with drinking Coke recently. You can read Coca-Cola's
Seeing is believing, or so they say. And many of us have been duped by the recent
According to National Geographic News, the photo is a fake. The composite image, which claims to be National Geographic's Photo of the Year, was spliced together from a U.S. Air Force photo taken near San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and a photo of a shark from South Africa. But even though it is a fake, it does make you feel better about your day job!
Check out the two original photographs farther down on the