The Top 10 Signs of an E-mail Hoax
Whether it be a plea to help a dying child, a warning about the latest killer computer virus, an offer of cash or prizes just for forwarding, or an urgent notice about the latest crime, scam or other threat to your personal well-being, most chain-letters have a few things in common. Here are the top ten signs that chain letter might be a hoax:
10. It points out that it "is a completely true story," or that it's "perfectly legal." If the author feels he or she has to make it clear, it's probably not so.
9. It relates an account of events that supposedly happened to an unidentified third person (i.e., "the dear son of the neighbor of a guy my boss knows.") How far the author is removed from the subject is usually directly proportional to how far the subject is removed from reality.
8. It claims to give you information that the media or government doesn't want you to have. Conspiracies are fun to believe, and most often full of hot air.
7. It "name drops," that is, mentions well-known companies or individuals that could be logically connected to the subject matter, without providing validation that they are connected.
6. It offers a reward for simply forwarding a message, or warns of dire consequences if you don't. Let's face it, if the key to good fortune were as simple as forwarding every e-mail we get, we'd all be Bill Gates!
5. It warns of some bizarre way to contract cancer, AIDS, or any other terrible (and high-profile) disease, or some other bizarre way to die or become seriously injured.
4. It contains references to "yesterday" or "last week," but doesn't say exactly when that was. Chain letters often arrive in our inboxes looking exactly as they did days, weeks, months, even years ago.
3. It warns that "your hard drive will be completely erased," or "it will destroy your data" or some other consequence that strikes at the heart of all computer owners. Human beings are motivated by extremes. We'll respond faster when we believe the consequences of our inaction could be swift and severe, despite the fact that most viruses are simple annoyances and do little permanent harm.
2. After reading it, you are either angry, scared, worried, or distrustful and want to do something about it. Emotions are a strong motivator, and hoaxters know this. They'll do everything they can to keep you from thinking critically.
1. It asks, begs or bullies you to forward it on to everyone you know.