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June 10th, 2005

Check Before Hitting “Send”

Whenever a circulating virus hoax makes it into our office it inevitably it ends up in my Inbox. People send it to me with a "FYI.." or "thought you should know about this" - thinking they've stumbled upon some new virus we weren't hip to yet or that they're making my job easier.

It's very frustrating to get these emails and see that, previously, they've been forwarded to, sometimes, hundreds of people. It takes me less than a minute to check Snopes or even TrendMicro Hoax Encyclopedia and see that the email is completely bogus.

Out of the over one hundred people that received this last hoax (the Life is Beautiful.pps hoax), which I could see from all of the left-over forwarded addresses, not one had the good sense to check the validity of this claim before sending it out to everyone in their address book.

It is amazing how many emails are sent out this way. Simply because it appears on the computer, no matter how far-fetched it might sound, people send it along. Chain letters, years-old missing children reports, and virus hoaxes are just a few examples.

The problem is that there is potential for danger here; especially with virus hoaxes. The Life is Beautiful.pps hoax is fairly innocuous. It simply states, untruthfully, that opening a particular file can cause a virus to wipe your computer clean.

Some virus hoaxes are much more sinister. There have been hoaxes that, playing on people's fear, tell users to find a certain file in their computer. If the file is found, the hoax may state, they have whatever virus the hoax has dreamed up. They are instructed to delete the file immediately.

You can imagine what happens. The user has unwittingly deleted an important system file that the computer needs to run properly. There was no virus, yet the hoax caused the user to damage their own computer just the same.

Things like this, along with email farming and phishing scams, are good reasons to have sites like TrendMicro & Snopes bookmarked. Check out emails before sending them along. You could be passing on misinformation, or even potentially harmful data.

Here are a list of good resources to check and see if the email you've received is a hoax or scam before sending it on:
Snopes - Urban Legend Reference
TrendMicro Hoax Encyclopedia
CIAC (US Dept. of Energy) Hoaxbusters

Remember - THINK before hitting "Forward"!

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