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Issue 70 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 70: March 2007

This month in Hoax-Slayer:
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Hoax-Slayer is a Free Monthly Web-Based Newsletter brought to you by Brett Christensen

The Hoax-Slayer Newsletter keeps you informed about the latest email hoaxes and current Internet scams. Hoax-Slayer also features anti-spam tips, computer security information, pertinent articles and more.

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Sinbad Heart Attack Hoax

Message claims that US actor and comedian, Sinbad, died of a heart attack on March 14th.


Example:(Submitted March 2007)
Fwd: FW: Sinbad, the comedian, died today, heart attack

Sinbad, born David Adkins (November 10, 1956 - March, 14, 2007) was an American stand-up comedian and actor. He became known in the late 1980s and 1990s, appearing on several television series and starring in the feature films Houseguest (1995), First Kid and Jingle All the Way (both 1996). He succumbed to a fatal heart attack on the morning of March, 14, 2007.

This message, which is spreading via email, blogs and online forum posts, claims that popular American actor and comedian Sinbad died on the 14th March 2007 as a result of a heart attack.

However, the information in the message is untrue. Sinbad is alive and well.

Apparently, the rumour about the star's death first surfaced around 10th March 2007. However, the rumour began spreading rapidly after someone added false information about the fatal heart attack to a Wikipedia article about the actor.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that can be freely edited by members of the public. In this case, an unknown perpetrator vandalised an entry about Sinbad by adding an update about his apparent death by heart attack. Wikipedia managers quickly caught and corrected the hoax entry. However, the entry was changed back to the incorrect version several times, perhaps by well-intentioned people who had believed that the initial vandalized version was correct. By the time Wikipedia finally closed the entry for editing, the story had spread far and wide.

The updated and corrected version of the Sinbad Wikipedia entry now includes the following information:
On 10 March 2007, Sinbad's managers started receiving phone calls of condolence, after people began hearing unsubstantiated rumors of Sinbad's death..... Hundreds of people contacted his managers and production studio, including Lionel Richie....

This rumor spread to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia on 15 March 2007, when his biography was edited to include the claim of his death. The incorrect information was soon removed, but a fan spreading the initial rumor included a link to the old (and incorrect) revision of the article...
Wikipedia is an excellent online resource that contains many well written and well researched articles on a wide range of topics. However, because entries can be revised by virtually anybody, incorrect or unverified information may creep into entries. Therefore, it is wise to confirm information in Wikipedia entries via other resources.

US comic Sinbad resurrected after premature demise
Wikipedia Archive: Sinbad (actor)/deleted
Wikipedia: Sinbad (corrected article)


Eight Outboard Drug Runner Boat Photograph

Email claims an attached photograph of a very fast boat with eight outboard motors was used for regular drug smuggling operations across the English Channel.

Boats like the one in the photograph are real and have been used by drug smugglers. However, the details about the particular drug smuggling operation described may be inaccurate.

Example:(Submitted March 2007)
Subject: Anyone for a ski?

Here's the latest drug runner from some european nuts.

This thing belts across the english channel 3 times per week and was just a blur on the radar of the British coast guard.

They were so blown away by the speed of the thing that they bought in a specialised chopper and had to attempt to LAND the chopper on the boat at high speed to get them to stop....

What was on board...... 300kgs of pure cocaine!

Fast Drug Boat

This email forward includes a photograph of a large rigid inflatable boat (RIB) that is powered by eight 250 hp outboard motors. The message claims that the vessel was used to smuggle drugs across the English Channel three times per week until it was captured by a British coast guard helicopter with 300kg of cocaine on board.

Powerful RIB's like the one pictured are real. UK company Crompton Marine manufactures RIBs in a variety of sizes and engine configurations including a 20 meter model powered by eight 250 CV Yamaha outboard motors. The specifications of this model correspond with the boat shown in the photograph.

Moreover, recent criminal proceedings indicate that these vessels may have been designed specifically to meet the requirements of drug smugglers. The current owner of Crompton Marine, Ian Rush, has been accused of supplying the boats for use in drug related crimes. Rush's partners, Richard Davison, and Ellen George were arrested on similar charges in 2004. A January 2007 BBC news article includes the following quote from case prosecutor Simon Draycott:
"The ribs (rigid inflatable boats) were built, sold and transported to southern Spain, North Africa and Morocco.

"Mr Davison, Ms George and Mr Rush knew those buying the boats wanted them for one reason, to transport drugs and contraband from North Africa to southern Spain.

"They also knew that the money used to pay for the boat was coming from proceeds of crime."
Another news article in the UK's Daily Mail provides further information about the case:
Managing director Davison, 39, and his partner George, 41, were suspected of making secret cash deals on boats costing up to £350,000, each with eight 250-horsepower engines strapped to the back.

Ranging between 30ft and 60ft long and capable of producing 60 knots (about 70mph) at sea, they could out-run any pursuers. Similar sized boats normally have one or two outboard motors.
Thus, there seems little doubt that boats like the one pictured were used in illicit drug related activities. However, I could find no reports that confirm the English Channel drug smuggling incident described in the message. Reports of large drug busts are regularly featured in the news media. It is unlikely that a 300kg cocaine haul found in one of the RIB's that are central to a widely reported court case would not have made headlines. Also, details of the court case reveal that, although the inflatable drug boats were made in the UK, they were destined for drug smuggling operations between north Africa and southern Spain.

Given the lack of any collaborating evidence, it seems reasonable to conclude that, although the boat shown in the photograph may well have been used to smuggle drugs, the description of the drug bust included in the message may be false or inaccurate.

Models & Prices - Crompton Marine
Firm 'built drug dealer's boats'
Boatbuilding firm supplied 'uncatchable' boats to smugglers, court hears


Verified By Visa Phishing Scam

Email claiming to be from Visa asks recipients to click a link and provide account information in order to activate the "Verified by Visa" security program.

False - The message is a scam designed to steal financial information.

Example:(Submitted, February 2007)
Subject: Activate Now For Verified By Visa

Visa LogaVerified by Visa Logo

Dear Visa® customer,

Before activating your card, read this important information for cardholders!

You have been sent this invitation because the records of Visa Corporate indicate you are a current or former Visa card holder.To ensure your Visa card's security, it is important that you protect you Visa card online with a personal password. Please take a moment, and activate for Verified by Visa now.

Verified by Visa protects your existing Visa card with a password you create, giving you assurance that only you can use your Visa card online.

Simply activate your card and create your personal password. You'll get the added confidence that your Visa card is safe when you shop at participating online stores.

Activate Now for Verified by Visa

Thank you for your support.
Visa Service Department

This email claims to be from credit card provider, Visa and instructs recipients to follow a link to activate "Verified by Visa" security protection on their card. However, in spite of the seemingly genuine logos and formatting in the message, it does not originate from Visa. Instead it is a phishing scam intended to steal financial information. Those who do click on the link in the message will be directed to a fake website designed to closely resemble a genuine Visa web page. The fake site will request details about the cardholder's account which can then be harvested by the scammers running the phishing operation. In this way the scammers can gain all the data they require to use the compromised card for fraudulent transactions. Phishing scam attacks that use very similar tactics have been launched a number of times over the last few years.

Ironically, "Verified by Visa" is a genuine security program designed to protect consumers from credit card fraud. Cardholders are able to activate the security program by providing a credit card number on a secure Visa web page. The scammers have capitalized on this genuine program by diverting victims to a totally bogus activation process.

Visa has published information about phishing and other scams on its website and includes the following advice:
If you receive an email that appears to be from your card issuer requesting financial information or any other personal data:
In fact, you should be suspicious of any unsolicited email that asks you to click a link and provide personal or financial information. Phishing scammers continually target many financial institutions such as banks and credit card providers.

Learn more about Phishing

Verified by Visa security program used as bait in phishing scams
Visa Security Program


What is The Best Defence Against Internet Security Threats?

The answer to the question posed in the title above is simple. With a little training, YOU can be the best defence against Internet security threats. That wonderful wetware that sits snugly inside our skulls provides us with all that we need to take full control of our Internet security needs. These days, there is excellent computer security software available that can help us protect our computer systems. But, regardless of how sophisticated this software may be, it is still nothing more than a mindless collection of computer code. To be effective, it needs a human operator to oversee its actions and ensure that it is performing its designated tasks correctly. This human operator also needs to make sure that all the security programs installed on a computer work together in harmony and are kept updated. And, of course, our operator needs to gain a working knowledge of a range of computer security issues to ensure that his or her computer is as secure as possible.

That might all seem a little daunting, but gaining all of the knowledge you need to take control of your computer security is not difficult if you have access to the right information. And the good news is that all of the information you need is available in one neat package, The Hacker's Nightmare, an outstanding eBook by security expert Bill Hely.

One of the great advantages of The Hacker's Nightmare is that it is presented in plain English. The book unfolds as a step-by-step tutorial that shows you how to secure your computer and practice safe and efficient computing. The book eloquently explains why a particular computer security or safety procedure is necessary. It then supplies detailed instructions about how to implement the procedure.

To reiterate, YOU can be the ultimate security guard for your computer systems and The Hacker's Nightmare can teach you how to fulfil that role quickly and easily. I unreservedly recommend this book for all those who want to ensure that their computers and their information remains safe and secure and I'm proud to be a Hacker's Nightmare affiliate.

Find out more about The Hacker's Nightmare now

As noted above, I am an affiliate for "The Hacker's Nightmare". For more information please refer to my Affiliate Marketing Policy


New US Presidential Coins Omit "In God We Trust"?

Protest message claims that "In God We Trust" was intentionally omitted from the new 2007 United States Presidential $1 Coins.

False - The motto was omitted in error on some coins but is included on the edge of correctly minted coins.

Example:(Submitted, March 2007)

Since the 1950’s, "In God We Trust" has been our National Motto, and has been inscribed on the front of all coins and the back of all paper currency.

This new coin came out this month. The U.S. Mint hopes the redesigned $1 coin will win acceptance with consumers.

New Dollar Coin

It does not have "In God We Trust" on it. Here's another way of phasing God out of America.

Send this on and let consumers to decide if it will win acceptance or not.

This message claims that the words "In God We Trust" have been intentionally omitted from new United States Presidential $1 Coins that were issued in early 2007. The motto "In God We Trust" is revered by many US citizens and its removal from US currency would likely cause widespread anger and resentment.

However, the claim in the message that "In God We Trust" was purposely omitted from the new coins is untrue.

There are two major factors that may have contributed to the spread of this rumour:
  1. Usually, "In God We Trust" is inscribed on the front of US coins. However, in the case of the new Presidential coins, the motto is included on the edge rather than the front. People who saw images depicting just the front of the coins may have concluded that the motto had been excluded altogether. The US Mint website notes:
    These coins will feature edge-incused inscriptions of the year of minting or issuance, "E Pluribus Unum," "In God We Trust" and the mint mark. Due to the minting process used on the circulating coins, the edge-incused inscription positions will vary with each coin.

    A side view of the new coins
    Presidential $1 Coins - Side View

  2. Due to a quality control problem, a number of the new coins were issued without any edge lettering at all. "In God We Trust" was not present on these coins and this may have caused some people to believe that the omission was a deliberate act. However, the omission was a result of a problem during the manufacturing process and was in no way intentional. The United States Mint has published the following statement on the issue:
    The United States Mint has struck more than 300 million George Washington Presidential $1 Coins. We have recently learned that an unspecified quantity of these coins inadvertently left the United States Mint at Philadelphia without edge-lettering on them. It is unknown how many of these coins without inscriptions on the edge have been placed into circulation.

    The United States Mint understands the importance of the inscriptions "In God We Trust" and "E Pluribus Unum," as well as the mint mark and year on U.S. coinage. We take this matter seriously. We also consider quality control a high priority. The agency is looking into the matter to determine a possible cause in the manufacturing process.

    Production of the Presidential $1 Coin, with its unique edge-lettering, is a new, complex, high volume manufacturing system, and the United States Mint is determined to make technical adjustments to perfect the process. As we adjust this new process, we intend to eliminate any such defects.

    Consistent with the agency’s practice in such situations, the United States Mint has informed the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Treasury about this matter.

    Contact: Press inquiries: Michael White (202) 354-7222
    Customer Service information: (800) USA MINT (872-6468)
Thus, the information in the message is untrue and forwarding it to others will serve no good purpose. Except for those in which the edge inscriptions were mistakenly left off, the new coins do not omit "In God We Trust". Instead, the motto has simply been moved to the coin's edge.

A Statement from the United States Mint
Edge-Incused Inscriptions
U.S Mint goof: Some new dollar coins missing "In God We Trust"


Increasing Security Threat from Trojan Attacks

Computer security experts have noted that, while major worm epidemics are becoming less common, trojan attacks are on the rise. This trend looks set to continue in 2007 and beyond, with trojan attacks growing more sophisticated and more targeted.

What is a trojan?

A "trojan", or more precisely a "Trojan horse" is a malicious computer program that may be downloaded and installed without the knowledge of the user. The malicious software is often bundled with a seemingly innocent program or hidden within an apparently legitimate web page. Like the classical myth of the Trojan Horse for which it is named, the user may willingly accept the vessel containing the trojan and remain unaware of the threat until it is too late. In the ancient myth, the Trojans, under siege from the Greeks, moved a large wooden horse inside the city walls convinced that it was a harmless gift. Alas, Greek warriors hidden within the wooden horse were able to emerge and take control of the city.

What do trojans do?

Once installed, a trojan can perform a range of clandestine activities depending on the goals of its creator. It may interfere with normal computer activities, destroy or modify files, disable other programs or collect information by recording keystrokes or other means. Many trojans are designed to give hackers remote access to the infected computer. Often the computer is first infected by a trojan downloader which subsequently downloads and installs several other trojans designed for specific purposes. For example, one may record keystrokes including usernames and passwords, another may disrupt computer security software, while another may allow a hacker to control the infected computer from afar. Some trojans may turn the infected computer into a "zombie" which can then be used to send spam and scam email.

How are trojans distributed?

Scammers use a variety of methods to distribute trojans, including the following:
How do a protect my computer from trojans?

The good news is that it is not difficult or expensive to ensure that your computers are protected as outlined above. Free or inexpensive anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software is readily available online. Security updates are generally made available free of charge and are easy to install. And there is also a great deal of free online information about how trojans work and what to do about them. Moreover, the simple steps discussed above can be applied to, not only trojan attacks, but other potential computer security threats as well, including viruses, email worms, spyware and more.


Frozen Niagara Falls Photographs

Series of photographs circulating via email are claimed to depict Niagara Falls frozen over in the year 1911.

Genuine Photographs - Specified date may be inaccurate

Example:(Submitted February 2007)
Subject: Fw: 1911 Photo of Niagara Falls]

Frozen Niagara Falls 1

Frozen Niagara Falls 2

Frozen Niagara Falls 3

Frozen Niagara Falls 4

This interesting set of photographs of a frozen Niagara Falls circulates via email and has been posted to various blogs and online forums. There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the photographs. While the falls almost never freeze solid, it is not uncommon for mounds of ice to form a thick crust that covers the running water beneath. Strange and beautiful ice formations can be formed as mist and falling water freeze over.

In colder winters, the crust of ice can even reach from bank to bank and extend for miles down the river. In earlier times, visitors often walked out on these "ice bridges" to view the falls as depicted in the first image above. However, in 1912, an ice bridge broke up and three visitors fell to their deaths. Henceforth, walking out on the ice bridges was considered too dangerous.

While the photographs are real, the specified date of 1911 for the first image is questionable and the photographs were not all taken at the same time. Copies of the images can be found on the Niagara Falls Public Library website and elsewhere on the Internet. The following notes provide more information about each image in turn:
This image is displayed on the Niagara Falls Public Library website with the title "American Falls Frozen Over With People on the Ice". According to information accompanying the image, it began circulating on the Internet in 2003 but the original source and date is not known. The image is also featured on Niagara Falls, and its position in the text suggests that it may be intended to show an event in 1848 when the river actually stopped flowing completely for a few hours due to an ice jam upstream. However, it is unclear if the image depicts the actual event described, or is only used as a general illustration of an ice bridge.

This image is also included on the Niagara Falls Public Library and is titled "Great mass of frozen spray and ice-bound American Falls Niagara", with a date of 1902. It originally formed part of a stereo image, a popular medium at the time.

This image was apparently derived from an original color postcard titled "Cave of the Winds in Winter Niagara Falls" which was mailed in August 1911. Exactly when the image was created is unclear. The image is also featured on the website of Ellis House, a Bed and Breakfast at Niagara Falls.

This image seems to be a cropped version, of a photograph titled "American Falls frozen over" that was taken in 1936. Notes with the uncropped image explain "The miraculous result of a cold winter, the American Falls completely froze in 1936. Notice the tiny human forms at the base of the Falls giving an idea of the density of the ice."
Many other wonderful photographs of Niagara Falls, past and present, are available for viewing in the image database of the Niagara Falls Public Library.

Niagara Falls Public Library
Image database: Niagara Falls Public Library
Facts about Niagara Falls


Ericsson Lap-Top Computer Giveaway Hoax

Message claims that Ericsson will give away a free laptop computer to those who send the message to 8 or more people (Full commentary below).


Example:(Submitted March 2007)
Subject: Free Lap-Top

Hi, everyone

The Ericsson Company is distributing free computer lap-tops in an attempt to match Nokia that has already done so. Ericsson hopes to increase its popularity this way. For this reason, they are giving away the new WAP Laptops. All you need to qualify is to send this mail to 8 people you know. Within 2 weeks, you will receive Ericcson T18. But if you can send it to 20 people or more, you will receive Ericsson R320.

Make sure to send a copy to:

This email would have us believe that telecommunications equipment supplier Ericsson will give a free laptop computer to those who forward the message to 8 or 20 people. However, this claim is complete nonsense. The message is simply a rehashed version of an older hoax that claimed Erricsson was passing out free mobile phones for forwarding emails.

As hoaxes go, this one is even more absurd than usual. The free products specified in the message are actually mobile phones not computers. Moreover, both the Ericsson T18 and the Ericsson R320 are older models that have now been discontinued. The following text from a previous Ericsson phone hoax suggests that some prankster has attempted to give new life to an old hoax by making some minor changes and substituting "free computer lap-tops" for "free mobile phones".
Our main competitor, Nokia, is giving free mobile phones away on the Internet. Here at Ericsson we want to counter their offer. So we are giving our newest WAP-phones away as well.

All you have to do, is to forward this message to 8 friends. After two weeks delivery time, you will receive a Ericsson T18. If you forward it to 20 friends, you will receive the brand new Ericsson R320 WAP-phone. Just remember to send a copy to - that is the only way we can see, that you forwarded the message.

Ericsson has published a statement debunking these hoaxes on its website:
Ericsson is not giving away free phones. The chain mail you have received is a fraud and there is no person with the name of Anna Swelund working at Ericsson. At Ericsson, we are constantly looking at new innovative ways to market ourselves, chain e-mails are not one of them. We kindly ask you not to forward the chain mail further.
Similar messages claim that Nokia is the company giving away free phones for forwarding emails. This claim is also totally false.

In fact, any message that claims you can receive free products or money just for forwarding an email is sure to be a hoax. No legitimate company is likely to engage in such a haphazard and uncontrollable method of promoting their products.

Sony Ericsson Phone Giveaway Hoax
Ericsson T18
Ericsson R320
About the Free Phone Email Hoax
Nokia Giveaway Hoax


Lock Bumping - Bump Key Security Threat

Over the last few months, the media has given a great deal of attention to "lock bumping", a procedure that allows criminals to open many common door locks by simply inserting a specially modified key and tapping its end with a mallet or other tool. Along with the media reports, a number of warnings about lock bumping have been circulating via email and online.

The reports and warnings about lock bumping are genuine. Lock bumping, also known as "bump keying" and "key bumping" describes a technique in which an ordinary key can be filed so that, when it is inserted into a door lock and tapped, the internal pins can be jarred in such a way that the lock will open. The majority of pin-tumbler locks currently in use are vulnerable to lock bumping, including those normally found on people's front doors. The technique is simple enough that, with the right knowledge, and a little practice, just about anybody could use it.

Unfortunately, the necessary knowledge is quite freely available on the Internet. There are a large number of easily accessible videos and tutorials that explain in exacting detail how to perform the technique. In fact, there are even sets of bump keys and lock bumping kits available for purchase.

Some observers have suggested that all the recent media attention about lock bumping could have the negative effect of making more criminals aware of the technique. However, a great deal of detailed information about lock bumping has been posted on the Internet for well over a year. Almost since its inception, the Internet has enabled the unscrupulous to access and share information about criminal activities and lock bumping is no exception. Therefore, it seems only fair that the general public are made aware of this potential security threat since many criminals are likely to be already well versed on the issue.

While lock bumping is certainly cause for concern, there is seemingly little law enforcement data available that details how often the technique is actually used in break and entry crimes. Since a lock that has been "bumped" is unlikely to be significantly damaged, police may have no way of telling if criminals have gained entry via lock bumping or some other means. FBI statistics from 2004 reveal that 32.4 percent of burglaries were classified simply as "illegal entries" in that no force was known to be used to gain access. In many of these cases, thieves may have entered via unlocked doors or windows, used unauthorized duplicate keys, or used other lock picking techniques. However, it is possible that lock bumping was used in at least some of these cases, although there is no concrete data to support this possibility.

Lock bumping will only work if the "bump key" used is designed to fit in the targeted type of lock. And if the key is filed incorrectly, it may not enter the target lock or may become stuck in the keyway. Of course, many criminals would already be skilled enough to rapidly and silently pick locks without the need to file keys or tap noisily on doors.

Thankfully there are locks available that are claimed to be "bump proof", although they are significantly more expensive than normal locks.

YouTube: Lock Bumping and Bump Keys
Lock bumping: Wikipedia
Burglary - Crime in the United States 2004
Medeco Combats the Bump Key


Flat Tire Mall Abduction Warning

Email forward claims that an apparent good Samaritan who changed a flat tire for a woman in a shopping mall car park was actually a deranged killer intent on abduction.


Example:(Submitted February 2007)
This happened in MicMac Mall in Dartmouth... And a similar thing took place in Bayer's Lake Industrial park. About a month ago there was a woman standing by the mall entrance passing out flyers to all the women going in. The woman had written the flyer herself to tell about an experience she had so that she might warn other women. The previous day this woman had finished shopping, went out to her car and discovered that she had a flat. She got the jack out of the trunk and began to change the flat. A nice man dressed in business suit and carrying a briefcase walked up to her and said, "I noticed you're changing a flat tire. Would you like me to take care of it for you?" The woman was grateful for his offer and accepted his help. They chatted amiably while the man changed the flat and then he put the flat tire and the jack in the trunk, shut it and dusted his hands off. The woman thanked him profusely and as she was about to get in her car, the man told her that he left his car around on the other side of the mall and asked if she would mind giving him a lift to his car. She was a little surprised and she asked him why his car was on the other side.

He said he got turned around in the mall and left through the wrong exit and now he was running late and his car was clear around on the other side of the mall. The woman hated to tell him "no" because he had just rescued her from having to change her flat tire all by herself, but she felt uneasy. Then she remembered seeing the man put his briefcase in her trunk before shutting it and before he asked her for a ride to his car. She told him that she'd be happy to drive him around to his car, but she just remembered one last thing she needed to buy. She told the man that he could wait for her; she would be as quick as she could be. She hurried into the mall and told a security guard what had happened; the guard came out to her car with her but the man had left. They opened the trunk, took out his locked briefcase and took it down to the police station. The police opened it obviously to look for ID so they could return it to the man. What they found was rope, duct tape, and knives. When the police checked her "flat" tire, there was nothing wrong with it; the air had simply been let out. It was obvious what the man's intentions were and obvious that he had carefully thought it out in advance.

The woman was blessed to have escaped unharmed. How much worst would it have been if she'd gone against her judgment and given him a lift. I'd like you to forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life. I was going to send this to the ladies only, but guys, if you love your mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, ect. you may want to pass it on to them as well.

Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that the world we live in has a lot of crazies in it . . better safe than sorry.


According to this email warning, a violent criminal is posing as a good Samaritan in order to abduct women from shopping mall car parks. The message claims that the man first lets the air out of his target's car tire while she is shopping. When she returns to the vehicle, he offers to help change the flat tire. After changing the tire the man asks for a lift back to where his own car is supposedly parked. If the woman complies, however, the man is able to abduct her and eventually employ the knives, rope and duct tape that he has secretly left in the car boot.

Although there was one case in 1989 in which a similar tactic was used, there is no evidence that such crimes are currently happening. Versions of the warning message have circulated for several years and have been set in several different locations. Like many such email warnings, this one tends to be localized from time to time during its journey before being sent onward. The version included here claims the mall where the killer lurked was in Dartmouth, Canada. Others have been set in various malls across the United States. Many versions do not name the mall or city at all. The earliest version identified the location as Tuttle Crossing Mall in Columbus Ohio. However, there are no reports of such attempted abductions in Columbus or any of the other locations named in the messages. In fact, other than the one 1989 case, there are no credible references to such crimes at all. Moreover, staff at the Tuttle Crossing Mall denied that any such event occurred. For weeks after the rumour began circulating, mall staff were inundated with enquiries about the supposed abduction attempt.

The message may have been loosely derived from a case in which Julia Ashe was abducted and killed in Waterbury Connecticut. A 1991 New York Times article notes:
Mr. Cobb kidnapped Miss Ashe on Dec. 16, 1989, from a department store parking lot in Waterbury after he helped her change a flat tire on her car. He had let the air out of the tire while she was in the store Christmas shopping. He then drove Miss Ashe to a wooded area, raped her, bound her and pushed her off a dam into an icy pond 23 feet below.
Cobb was apprehended and condemned to death for the crime.

While its creator may possibly have used the Cobb case as a base, the story is actually a modern manifestation of an urban legend that dates back over a century. Tales about narrow escapes from deranged killers who leave behind their instruments of death are part of our folklore. Other variants tell of a male killer disguised as an old woman who waits in the back of his target's vehicle. After the potential victim escapes unharmed, an axe is discovered hidden in the car. In 19th Century Britain, similar tales told of a disguised axe-murderer hidden in the back of a horse-drawn carriage. Another modern take on the legend falsely claims that a serial killer is tricking women into allowing him access to their vehicles by pretending to return a $5 bill that he says they have dropped.

Of course car park abductions do happen and, as the Cobb case illustrates, those doing the abducting may use clever ruses to achieve their aims. Certainly, we should be cautious of strangers even if they are apparently going out of their way to help us. However, since this message describes an abduction attempt that did not take place, and there are no credible reports about such crimes occurring, forwarding it will do no more than raise unnecessary fear and alarm and needlessly clutter inboxes.

Metro Datelines; Death Penalty Voted In a Rape-Murder
The Hairy-Armed Hitchhiker
Dropped $5 Bill Serial Killer Warning Email


Hoax-Slayer Humour: Inspiration

I seldom pass along inspirational stuff, but this one got to me........

I believe, in these difficult and mean-spirited times in which we live, there needs to be a message of Hope.

We can all use a single image that speaks to us of love, harmony, peace, and joy. An image that suggests the universality of us all. I have been sent that image, and I want to share it with you all.

All I ask that all of you take a moment to reflect on it.

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Enjoy a good laugh?
Read my review of the "That's Comedy! Joke Book"


The Hoax-Slayer Newsletter is published by:
Brett M.Christensen
Queensland, Australia
All Rights Reserved
©Brett M. Christensen, 2008