Anyone with an email address has come across at least one internet hoax at some point. Internet hoaxes are a commonality these days, and they come in all different forms. From chain letters to internet scams, to viruses and forwarded messages full of false hype, some of these hoaxes are easier to fall for than others. On occasion, forwarded messages do contain useful information, but not often. This is why having the ability to discern between an internet hoax and the truth is important.
The Purpose of Internet Hoaxes
Internet hoaxes serve many different purposes. Sometimes, these emails are meant to be forwarded to as many people as possible because they contain some type of virus or spyware. Some scams are designed as a ploy to collect money, although these rarely work.
Other times, the email message may not have been meant to go that far, perhaps originally intended just to fool a few people. A scammer or prankster may not have had any motive at all, just boredom and the curiosity to see how far such a prank could go.
The purpose of such hoaxes is never made immediately clear, but preserving the safety of your computer and the data it contains it may be a good idea to steer clear away.
Spotting an Internet Hoax
Spotting an internet hoax is not as hard to do as it might seem. While every potential hoax should be considered on a case by case basis, there are some telltale signs that an email message or internet posting is more than likely a hoax or scam.
“Forward this to everyone you know!” is just one of the many urgent pleas that the author of these hoaxes might use as a call to action. What use is creating an internet hoax if it doesn’t get to as many people as possible? The more urgent the call to action is, the more suspicious you should be.
Most of the forwarded emails out there that contain true information are in the form of a personal letter or a news-style entry or article. When the language of a potential internet hoax seems overly persuasive, consider the fact that it might be a hoax. When the writer is more concerned with persuading the reader to believe their story than they are with accurately communicating information, this should raise a red flag.
The Information is of a ‘Critical’ Nature
If information is really that important, chances are that the proper authorities would not rely on email to get the word out. Things that are truly of an urgent nature would appear on the evening news, or in the paper—not in the form of a forwarded email.
More Resources on Internet Hoaxes
The Nigerian Scam Defined
Payment Processing Scams
Snopes—The Urban Legend Reference Page
Truth or Fiction—Check Out Forwarded Emails
How to Spot an Email Hoax
Current Internet Scams from Hoax Slayer
DiamondBack.com Email Hoaxes and Scams
Microsoft.com Avoid Email Hoaxes and Email Scams
Microsoft.com Recognizing Phishing Scams