The Hoax Stops Here!!!
Why you should not forward all those Hoaxes, Viruses warnings, and Urban Legends!

There is a vast amount of spam heading our way on a daily basis. As annoying as it is, I have come to accept it about as well as I have regular junk mail: an evil that is unavoidable in the consumer driven world that we live in. There is something else cluttering our e-mail in boxes that I find more annoying than true spam: hoax e-mail. This is e-mail that has been forwarded by countless gullible users, not one of whom bothered to check if it is valid before sending it to their entire address book.

I apologize for seeming like I am ranting about this issue. It could be said this is a pet peeve of mine and I often feel the need to educate people about this (my close friends as well as strangers who happen to have me on a mailing list). In all seriousness though, it can cause major problems for e-mail servers. Take a look at the following article from the Guide to Urban Legends and Folklore to better understand how e-mail hoaxes/urban legends can cause problems to a network.

In order to reduce the proliferation of this type of e-mail, I would like to share with you some rules of thumb when trying to decide if you should forward that e-mail along to all your friends, family and colleagues:

  1. To quote HoaxBusters "When in Doubt, Don't Send It Out."
    My personal rule is 'would I want to get this in my in box, only to find out it is a hoax?' and the answer is always, NO! If you don't have time to check it out first, don't send it along on in the unlikely chance that it is real.
  2. If it sounds too fantastic to be true, it probably is.
    Most of those panic stories or great offers are just hooks to get you to read the rest of the letter.
  3. Just because it has an official sounding name on it does not mean it is real.
    That is referred to as 'False Authority Syndrome' and is often done to try to make you believe it is real.
  4. If it's that important, send the URL
    To quote my brother, Robert, from his e-mail tips page 'if you come across an entertaining item on the web that 25 of your closest friends absolutely must see, send them the URL, not the content itself. if you didn't find it on the web, take a minute to open up a web browser and look for it. it's out there.'
  5. Even though they seem harmless, chain letters are just as bad as hoaxes and viruses.
    They were annoying in 5th grade via snail mail, they are still annoying in the digital age, only now they crash servers and clog up network traffic. If the content (i.e. cute poem or sentiment) is so special that you must share it, please strip off the 'you must send this to 10 friends within the next 10 minutes or bad things will happen to you' line at the end, it is just a fear tactic to make you propagate the problem.
  6. Friends don't send friends chain mail!
    Those chain mail letters that instruct you to 'send to all your friends, and if you receive it back you know who your true friend are' are just trying to use guilt to motivate you to spread the disease. Don't give in! (FYI: if you send me one of these, don't think I am not your friend simply because I don't respond; friendship goes beyond chain mail.)
  7. Leave virus warnings to the experts.
    There are many more qualified people out there who know how to deal with viruses, and it is part of their job to determine the correct action. If you are unsure what to do, and don't have time to check, forward it on to your office IT or IS personnel, or to a tech minded friend and simply ask if it is real and if there is anything they recommend you do about it. If you really want to keep abreast of the virus situation, put yourself onto a virus alert list from a reputable anti-virus software company (several listed below have free virus alert services).


Internet sites Recommended reading

Steal This Computer Book : What They...

E-Mail For Dummies¨ 2nd Edition

The Internet For Dummies¨

Email me with comments or questions.

Copyright © 2000, Ragani Harris. All rights reserved.
Last revised: November 21, 2000