The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Email Hoaxes
PayPal Class Action Suit
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jul 29, 2004
A study by an anti-spam firm called MailFrontier found that, on average, 28% of computer users are fooled by email scams. But intriguingly, 20% of users misidentify legitimate emails from companies such as PayPal as scams. This becomes relevant because a lot of people recently received an email informing them of the possibility of joining a class-action suit against PayPal (I got one of these emails in my inbox this morning). The suit is real. The email is legitimate. But quite a few people assumed that it was just another scam and deleted it. John Dvorak, at PC Magazine, muses that the email "almost looks like it has been made to look like a…
Origin of the Bill Gates Email Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 30, 2004
Displaying some very impressive sleuthing skills, Jonathon Keats has apparently solved the mystery of the origin of the ubiquitous Bill-Gates-will-pay-you-to-forward-this-email hoax. He writes about it in an article in Wired. He traced the origin of the hoax back to November 18, 1997 when Iowa State student Bryan Mack was sitting in a campus computer lab and created the first version of the email as a joke that he sent to a friend sitting beside him. It read: "My name is Bill Gates. I have just written up an email-tracing program that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am experimenting with this and…
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 10, 2004
Here's the latest hoax warning that's going around via email. Actually, it may be quite old, but I've only come across it recently. So here it is: I hate those hoax warnings, but this one is important! Send this warning to everyone on your e-mail list. If someone comes to your front door saying they are conducting a survey and asks you to take your clothes off, do not do it.!!! This is a scam; they only want to see you naked. I wish I'd gotten this yesterday. I feel so stupid and cheap now.....
Terror Email Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Thu Jun 10, 2004
A lot of people in New York have been getting an email warning them not to ride the subways this Friday because terrorists may be planning a big attack. It's your typical I-heard-it-from-a-friend-of-a-friend nonsense, laced with a liberal helping of numerology (Friday being 6/11, WTC attack 9/11, Madrid bombing 3/11), plus bogus information (the city hasn't ordered a couple thousand extra body bags). You can read the full email over at Gawker. The New York City Police insist that they have no knowledge of an impending attack.
Phishing Scam Example
Posted by The Curator on Fri Jun 04, 2004
A Phishing scam is... well, I'll just let the webopedia define it because I'm too lazy to write a definition myself. Phishing is "the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a Web site where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organization already has. The Web site, however, is bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information." Here's a very good example of a…
UPS Uniform Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 20, 2004
Mark wrote to let me know that the UPS Uniform Email Hoax is making the rounds again (the corporate security at his office thoughtfully forwarded it to everyone he works with). This hoax is an old one, going back almost two years. Basically the email claims that terrorists managed to purchase $32,000 worth of UPS uniforms on eBay, so everyone should have their eyes out for phony UPS employees delivering packages. The latest version of the message has the fake signature of a Homeland Security Official appended to the bottom of it, making it seem even more authentic. The reality is that no such huge sale of UPS uniforms ever took place,…
Strunkenwhite or Pluperfect Virus Hoax
Posted by The Curator on Thu May 13, 2004
Swiffer Wet Jet Pet Rumor
Posted by The Curator on Mon May 10, 2004
Teresa wrote in to ask about the truth of that email rumor going around alleging that the Swiffer Wet Jet cleaning fluid contains antifreeze and can be fatal to pets (you can read the full text of that email rumor here). Swiffer itself addresses this rumor on its corporate website, so it can be pretty easily debunked. It's totally false. But since I'm on the subject of Swiffers, I've got to note something about them that I find incredibly annoying... how you can only use Swiffer brand cleaning fluid with the Wet Jet. And, of course, the Swiffer brand fluid ain't cheap. Out of frustration, I ended up…
Will the real Ella Schultz please stand up?
Posted by The Curator on Mon Apr 26, 2004
Ella Schultz, an elderly black woman living in Kentwood, Michigan, is quite the emailer. Over the past year she's been shooting off emails to teachers, school administrators, and even a few journalists. But it turns out that Ella isn't actually real. The person actually sending those emails was Edward Kape, a Kentwood Board of Education member (who has now resigned). Or at least, he was one of the people using 'Ella Schultz' as their nom de plume. He insists there were others, though he's not naming any names. The tip off for those receiving the emails should have been that they came from Yahoo and Hotmail accounts. Whenever I receive an email from someone I don't know who's…
Ground Control to Major Abacha Tunde
Posted by The Curator on Sun Apr 18, 2004
The Register has posted a great Nigerian Bank Scam email that it received. I get these emails all the time, and typically they come from people claiming to be either relatives of (or bankers of) deposed third world leaders who have huge amounts of money trapped in a bank account somewhere. They need your help to move the money out of the country. But this email that the Register received claims to come from a relative of a Nigerian astronaut trapped in space. He has a huge amount of back-pay accrued, and just needs your help to access the cash in order to get home. Very inventive. I wonder if the author of the letter actually expected to snare…
New Retirement Plan
Posted by The Curator on Wed Apr 14, 2004
My wife received this note in an email at work. Sadly, even though it's a joke, the advice it offers seems quite sensible: New Retirement Plan: If you had purchased $1000.00 of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00. With Enron, you would have $16.50 left of the original $1,000.00. With WorldCom, you would have less than $5.00 left. But, if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of Beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling price, you would have $214.00. Based on the above, current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle. It's called the 401-Keg Plan.
Google Launches Gmail
Posted by The Curator on Thu Apr 01, 2004
Google has announced a new email service called Gmail, that will give each user one gigabyte of free storage. Strangely, the press release is dated April 1, leading many to speculate that it's an April Fool's Day joke. Maybe it is, but if so it would seem a very odd one. Usually April Fool's Day jokes involve a certain minimum level of wit, and you should feel foolish for believing them once you find out they're a joke. But if someone were to tell me that Gmail is a joke, I wouldn't feel foolish. I'd just feel like Google had lied. There is some goofy language in the press release, but otherwise it just doesn't seem over-the-top…
More Spam on April 1st
Posted by The Curator on Tue Mar 30, 2004
Makers of network security software are warning that there may be an increase in spam leading up to April Fool's Day. "Spammers are expected to use subject lines such as "great joke," "free jokes," "prank," or "April fools" to entice users into opening attachments that carry viruses or objectionable content, potentially putting company networks at risk."
The Irish Virus hoax
Posted by The Curator on Sat Feb 21, 2004
This is just dumb. You receive an email with the following message: Greetings, You have just received the "IRISH VIRUS". As we don't have any programming experience, this Virus works on the honour system. Please delete all the files on your hard drive manually and forward this Virus to everyone on your mailing list. Thank you for your cooperation. I think I've seen other versions of it that attribute it to other ethnicities/social groups. There's more info about it over at symantec.com. (submitted by Bob Pagani).
Telephone Liars vs. Email Liars
Posted by The Curator on Sat Feb 14, 2004
A study reported on in the New Scientist has found that people lie more when they're talking on the telephone than they do when writing emails. The reason is that people are conscious of the fact that emails are saved and could come back to haunt them later, whereas telephone conversations don't tend to be recorded. Of course, this doesn't mean that more of the telephone calls we receive contain lies than the emails we receive. Just the opposite. Every day I'm flooded with emails that contain blatant lies, promising me instant riches and vast improvements in my physical prowess. This is because a small number of liars (spammers) can easily contact millions of people via email, whereas reaching…