Scams and Hoaxes
You know the old saying, “Don't believe everything you hear/read?” Well, that goes more than double for the Internet. There is a lot of good information out there, but there are also a lot of incorrect, or misleading, or out and out lies being passed off as “The Truth™.”
In this article we link to Wikipedia, Snopes, and others quite a lot. That does not mean that we think any of these sources is infallible. There is quite a lot of information on Wikipedia which has been found to be false in the past. The open editing policy of Wikipedia lends itself to such abuses. The open editing policy is also one of Wikipedia's greatest features. We haven't noticed any glaring errors at Snopes, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Just remember what the first paragraph said.
Have you recieved an amazing, or blood boiling, e-mail about this or that? Before you believe it, write your congress person, and/or secede from the Union, do a little research. It may be someone's idea of a practical joke.
Here is a list of sites dedicated to sorting the wheat from the chaff:
- Snopes.com — Rumor Has it — Urban legends Reference Pages
- About.com's Urban Legends
- BreakTheChain.org - Stop Junk E-mail and Misinformation
- Scam o Rama: The Lads from Lagos
There are various types of scams out there:
Phishing — Wikipedia says “Phishing is the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”
Advance Fee Fraud — Wikipedia says “An advance fee fraud is a confidence trick in which the target is persuaded to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing a very much larger gain.”
The Nigerian Scam is a form of Advance Fee Fraud. Here is what Snopes has to say about it.
They have a great piece of advice about this:
Counterfeit Cashier's Check scam — You list something for sale online and a potential, usually non-local, buyer offers to pay with a check which is way too big and wants you to wire the excess funds, minus a little something for yourself, back to them. The check is counterfeit. Do not accept it. Notify the IC3.
The FBI has a web page about fraud in general which we recommend reading. Federal Bureau of Investigation — Common Fraud Schemes They also have a news log of electronic scams of which they want the public to be aware.
The recurring advice in these articles seems to be:
“Be wary of any e-mail received from an unknown sender. Do not open any unsolicited e-mail and do not click on any links provided. If you have received a scam e-mail please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov.”and:
“Warning! Providing any personal information can compromise your identify and open you to identity theft.”
For more information, you may want to read up on some fo the Cyber Security tips at CERT.