Is it a Hoax?

What is a hoax email and how do I check to see if the email I received is a hoax email?
Hoax emails are email communications which contain alarmist, inaccurate information and are issued with the sole intent of frightening or misleading users.
Sites that debunk urban legends and Internet hoaxes:
Whether it is
a) a plea to help a dying child,
b) a warning about the latest computer virus,
c) an offer of cash or prizes just for forwarding,
d) an urgent notice about the latest crime, scam or other threat to your personal well-being and/or
e) special pictures or inside information pertaining to current affairs

most chain-letters have a few things in common.
Some examples of chain e-mail and hoaxes:
  • 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 true.
  • 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.
  • It claims to give you information that the media or government doesn't want you to have.
    Conspiracies are fun to believe, yet rarely true.
  • It "name drops." It mentions well-known companies or individuals that could be logically connected to the subject matter, without providing validation that they are connected.
  • It offers a reward for simply forwarding the e-mail or warns of dire consequences if you don't forward the e-mail.
    If the key to good fortune were as simple as forwarding every e-mail received, e-mail users would be wealthy.
  • It warns of some bizarre way to contract cancer, AIDS, or any other terrible (high-profile) disease, or some other bizarre way to die or become seriously injured.
  • It contains references to "yesterday" or "last week," but doesn't say exactly when that was.
    Chain letters often arrive in our email inboxes looking exactly as they did days, weeks, months, even years ago.
  • 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.
    Most viruses are simple annoyances and do relatively little permanent damage. Rarely do they evoke the amount of damage the hoax e-mail purports. Practicing safe internet activity minimizes viral infections. The hoax originator operates on the thought that human beings react to extremes and will thus immediately do as directed.
  • After reading it, you are either angry, scared, worried, or distrustful and want to do something about it.
    Emotions are a strong motivator and the hoax perpetuators know this. They try to keep you from thinking critically.
  • It asks, begs or bullies you to forward it on to everyone you know.

Break the Chain -

Additional informative sites:

Additional Examples


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Last Update: 11/04/2007 07:04:07 PM