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Issue 71 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 71: April, 2007

This month in Hoax-Slayer:
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Holocaust Ban in UK Schools Chain Email

Summary:
Email "memorial chain" claims that the UK has removed topics about the Holocaust from its school curriculum.

Status:
Misleading and inaccurate

Update:
A later version of the message falsely claims that it was the University of Kentucky that removed information about the Holocaust from its school curriculum (Details in Commentary below).

Example 1:(Submitted, April 2007)
In Memoriam

Recently this week, UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the Moslem population which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russia peoples looking the other way!

Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be"a myth," it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets

This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!

Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world. Please send this e-mail to 10 people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain.

Please don't just delete it. It will only take you a minute to pass this along - Thanks!


Example 2:(Submitted, November 2007)
Subject: IN MEMORIAM University of Kentucky

IN MEMORIAM -- This week the University of Kentucky removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it. It is now more than 60 years since the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated with the German and Russian peoples looking the other way! Now more than ever, with Iran among others claiming the Holocaust to be "a myth," it i! s imperative to make sure the world never forgets. This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide! Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world. Please send this e-mail to 10 people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain.

Please don't just delete it. It will only take you a minute to pass this along - Thanks!

IN GOD WE TRUST


Commentary:
This email forward claims that teachings about the Holocaust have been removed from the United Kingdom (UK) school curriculum because their inclusion may offend Muslim citizens. However, this claim is unfounded. The UK government has not banned the teaching of the Holocaust in schools, nor is it planning to do so.

In fact, according to the BBC, "in England, teaching children about the Holocaust is compulsory". While other UK countries such as Scotland and Wales have their own school curriculum and Holocaust teaching is not compulsory, it is certainly not banned and is generally encouraged.

The false information in the message probably arose out of confusion generated by a Historical Association report commissioned by the English Department for Education and Skills. The report states, in part:
"Teachers and schools avoid emotive and controversial history for a variety of reasons, some of which are well-intentioned.

"Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes.

"In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."
It cites the case of one school that did not select the Holocaust as a topic:
For example, a history department in a northern city recently avoided selecting the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework for fear of confronting anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils.
Although it does discuss teaching of the Holocaust, the report also references a number of other emotionally charged historical events including the Crusades, slavery and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Thus, the report is certainly not focused just on the Holocaust, nor does it claim in any way that all UK schools have dropped the teaching of controversial historical topics.

Unfortunately, some news items and online commentaries have overstated the significance of the "northern city" example used in the report. In the same paragraph as this example, the report also states, "In another history department, the Holocaust was taught despite anti-Semitic sentiment among some pupils". However, some news articles have apparently chosen to focus primarily on the first example, thereby affording it more importance than it deserves. They have also implied via emotive headlines and news copy that avoiding the Holocaust is a widespread practise in UK schools. This is simply not the case, and such misleading reports have added to the burgeoning anger and confusion surrounding the issue.

Thus, the core claim in this email chain letter is false. The UK Government has not forced schools to drop Holocaust topics. Certainly, we should ensure that our children are taught about the vast human tragedy of the Holocaust and the Second World War. Any attempts by schools or governments to water down or remove historically sensitive topics due to political correctness should be strongly opposed. And we ourselves should never forget. However, forwarding this highly inaccurate and misleading chain email will only serve to sow confusion and misdirected anger. In spite of its claim to be "In Memoriam", the message is not a fitting memorial to victims of the Holocaust or the Second World War and it should not be forwarded.

Update: November 2007
Some time after the original version (Example 1 above) began circulating, a slightly altered version emerged (Example 2 above) that claimed that it was actually the University of Kentucky that was removing teachings about the Holocaust from its curriculum. However, this claim is totally unfounded. It seems likely that someone has mistakenly assumed that the abbreviation "UK" in the original message stands for the University of Kentucky rather than the United Kingdom. Acting on this believe, he or she may have then replaced the abbreviation with the full name of the university, perhaps in a misguided attempt to clarify the message. The University of Kentucky has published information on its website denying the rumour and reassuring the public that it has no intention of removing information about the Holocaust from its curriculum. The statement notes in part:
In fact, though, the university has never even considered jettisoning courses in the Holocaust. Kentucky offers an interdisciplinary minor in Judaic studies, and its history department devotes an entire 300-level course to the Holocaust, campus officials said in a written statement today.
Thus, forwarding this completely inaccurate information about the University of Kentucky is utterly pointless.

References:
Holocaust 'ban' e-mail confusion
Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3-19
Schools 'drop' controversial Holocaust teaching
U. of Kentucky Afflicted by Spurious E-Mail Chain Letter About the Holocaust

[TOP]



Hackers Exploit Virginia Tech Tragedy

Internet bottom-feeders have already began to capitalize on the Virginia Tech tragedy. Emails are being distributed that contain a photograph of Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung Hui. Recipients are promised access to camera phone footage of the shooting if they click a link in the message.

However, clicking on the link downloads and installs a Trojan that can harvest data such as banking passwords and usernames.

Tragedies and disasters are often exploited by hackers and scammers very soon after the events unfold. As well as malware attacks like the one discussed above, such "disaster" scams may also take the form of fraudulent requests for donations, phishing scams that try to trick people into handing over their personal information, and Nigerian style scams that falsely promise large fees in exchange for helping to distribute funds to victims of the tragedy.

Internet users should remain alert for scams of this nature over the coming weeks and months. Be wary of any emails concerning the Virginia Tech shootings. Do not click on links or open attachments in these emails unless you are certain of their veracity. If you donate money to help victims of the tragedy, ensure that you give via a legitimate charitable organization. If you donate online, make sure that you are using the genuine website of the charitable organization and not a spoof website designed to steal your information. Links in bogus donation emails may point to such fake websites.

Remember that the morally debased individuals who orchestrate such scams will not hesitate to use even the most terrible human tragedies for their own ends. They willingly exploit our natural desire to try to understand such tragedies, our heart-felt empathy and our desire to help victims in order to steal from us.

We can all help to thwart these heinous activities by remaining vigilant, keeping our computers secure, and ensuring that other Internet users are also aware of such threats.

References:
Malware attack poses as camera phone footage of Virginia Tech tragedy
Malware spam promises Virginia Tech video





[TOP]



Deadly Mobile Phone Virus Hoax

Summary:
Warning email claims that receiving a mobile phone call from certain numbers will cause brain hemorrhaging and death.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, April 2007)
Subject: mobile phone brain virus

Hi All,

Its very important news for all of you. Do not pick up calls from the Under given numbers.

9888308001,
9316048121,
9876266211,
9888854137,
9876715587 ,
These numbers will come in red color, if the call comes up from these numbers. Its with very high wave length, and frequency. If a call is received on mobile from these numbers, it creates a very high frequency and it causes brain ham range.

It's not a joke rather, its TRUE. 27 persons died just on receiving calls from these numbers. Watch Aaj Tak (NEWS), DD News and IBN 7.

Forward this message to all u'r friends and colleagues, and relative


Commentary:
A new rumour that is spreading rapidly via word-of-mouth, email, phone and sms claims that simply receiving a mobile (cell) phone call from certain numbers will activate a terrible virus that causes brain hemorrhaging and death. According to the message, the phone calls create high frequency tones that damage the user's brain, causing fatal injuries. The message claims that 27 people have already died and names several news outlets where people can supposedly find out more information.

There is, of course, not a shred of truth to this absurd story. There is no virus like the one described, nor is one even possible. No one has died and the only news reports on the subject are those dismissing it as a hoax.

The hoax apparently started as a text message that began circulating in Pakistan. It soon spread to Afghanistan where it has caused terror throughout the country. Network operators and government officials in both countries have moved to quell the rumours. Mobile Business Magazine notes:
Pakistan network operators released a joint statement saying: "These rumors are completely baseless. They do not make any sense in technological terms."

Afghan officials have since appeared on television, appealing for calm and reassuring people that there is no possible way a person can contract a virus via a telephone call.
However, in spite of these assurances, the story took on a life of its own and caused a wave of panic to sweep the country. As well as the brain hemorrhage claims, some versions claimed that call recipients suffered instant heart attacks, strokes or convulsions. Some people even believed that simply pressing a button on a mobile phone would release a "death ray".

Those allegedly responsible for the hoax have now been arrested. An IWPR article notes:
On the evening of April '7, the interior ministry announced that four men had been arrested in connection with the case.

According to one version of events, the hoax was traced to a company that imports special "magnetic cards" that are hung around the neck and will supposedly protect the wearer from the harmful effects of computers and mobile phones.

An official in the Ministry of Communications, who did not want to give his name, alleged that the company involved put the rumour out in retaliation for a ministry statement telling people not to buy the magnetic cards.
The stories are somewhat reminiscent of Cell, a novel by horror writer Stephen King in which a brain-altering mobile phone call wreaks havoc among US citizens. Like the novel however, the stories are purely a work of fiction.

If you receive this message, please let the sender know that it is a hoax and do not pass it on to others.

References:
Panic Over Deadly Mobile Virus
rban Myth Spreads Panic
PTA rejects rumors of mobile virus threat
Phone virus rumours spook Afghans
Cell - Review - Books - New York Times


[TOP]



Huge Dog With Horse Photograph

Summary:
Circulating image depicts a huge dog and a horse being lead through a park.

Status:
Origin unknown - Image is almost certainly manipulated.

Example:(Submitted April 2007)
Subject: You call that a dog??? THIS is a DOG!!!

Hercules: The World's Biggest Dog Ever According to Guinness World Records

Hercules was recently awarded the honorable distinction of Worlds Biggest Dog by Guinness World Records. Hercules is an English Mastiff and has a 38 inch neck and weighs 282 pounds.

With "paws the size of softballs" (reports the Boston Herald), the three-year-old monster is far larger and heavier than his breed's standard 200lb. limit. Hercules owner Mr. Flynn says that Hercules weight is natural and not induced by a bizarre diet: "I fed him normal food and he just grew".... and grew, and grew, and grew.

Huge Dog with Horse


Commentary:
This photograph of a horse and extremely large dog being walked by a man and a woman is circulating via email, blog posts and online forums. Many of the examples that have been submitted to Hoax-Slayer have contained no details or description other than a catchy subject line. Others have claimed that the dog in the picture is Hercules, a dog classified as the world's biggest by Guinness World Records.

However, this description was apparently taken from an article about Hercules available on eBay Guides and elsewhere on the Internet and does not seem to have any genuine connection to the image. Both Hercules and Kell, the other world record winning dog mentioned in the article, are certainly very large animals. However, neither are as large as the gigantic animal shown in the photograph. Hercules weighed in at 282 pounds while Kell tipped the scales at 286 pounds. The almost horse-sized creature depicted in the image would surely weigh considerably more.

If real, a dog of such enormous proportions could have easily taken out the world's largest or world's heaviest dog record and the animal would have garnered considerable media attention.

It seems clear that the image has been cleverly manipulated, perhaps by replacing a picture of the man's horse with a disproportionally sized picture of a dog.

References:
Nova Photo Album: Hercules
World's Biggest Dog, World's Heaviest Dog
New Record for Largest Dog in the World?
UK 20-stone dog is world's heaviest

[TOP]



Yolanda Bear Prayer Request

Summary:
Email requests prayers for Yolanda Bear and her family. The message claims that family lost two daughters to the Virginia Tech massacre, one in the shooting itself and another in a drive-way accident as they were leaving their home for Virginia after the shooting.

Status:
Almost certainly false

Example:(Submitted, April 2007)
Subject: FW: Fw: Urgent prayer request

Hi all,

I just got off the phone with a sweet friend that is going through some major hard circumstances right now (of her own). However, she just found out that one of her best friends in San Antonio, Yolanda Bear, had a daughter at Virginia Tech that was killed yesterday. Yolanda, her husband and eight year old daughter managed to get an emergency flight out to Virginia and were trying to hurry to get loaded up and go to the airport. In the midst of backing the car in the driveway her husband accidentally ran over their 8 year old daughter and she died as well. Yolanda is in hospital under sedation at the moment. Don't know about the husband. My friend is trying to get down there to be with her asap but, as I said, has her hands full of difficulties herself here at home and feels very helpless! I would appreciate your prayers for this family. They are believers. My friend had the privilege of leading the student at Tech to the Lord in 2 nd grade. My heart just breaks for them.

Cammy or Becky, if you could pass this on to our church contacts, that would be great.

Hug your family!

Heather


Commentary:
This email claims that a San Antonio Texas family endured a double tragedy after first losing a daughter to the Virginia Tech shooting and then backing over and killing a second daughter when leaving for the airport.

However, it appears that the message may be nothing more than a cruel hoax. There are no news reports confirming such an incident in Texas or elsewhere. Such a tragic accident would have almost certainly been reported, at least by local news outlet in San Antonio. In fact, the story has been denounced as an Internet hoax in an article on WOAI.com, A San Antonio News resource. The article notes:
We have been unable to substantiate the claim in this email. There have been no reports in San Antonio about a family backing over and killing its eight-year-old child. None of the Virginia Tech victims were named "Bear" - and none were reported as being from Texas.
An examination of the full list of Virginia Tech victims confirms the above findings. As stated, no victims had a surname of "Bear" or had Texas listed as their home state.

The message claims to be a "prayer request", probably as a ruse to entice recipients into forwarding it on.

References:
Internet Hoax: Parents of Murdered Virginia Tech Co-Ed Back Over 8-Year-Old
Lives Lost - Lives Shattered | ABCNews.com


[TOP]

Lottery Scam Variation - Bogus Cheque to Cover Expenses

Summary:
Email claims that the recipient will be sent a small portion of the money they have supposedly won in a lottery in the form of a cheque. The recipient is instructed to bank the cheque and then wire a specified amount to a "tax agent" ostensibly to cover taxation on the winnings.

Status:
False - The cheque will be fake or stolen and the promised lottery winnings do not exist.

Example:(Submitted, March 2007)
Your information that i received was verified through my record and confirmed that you are the true winner of this lottery. You may be wondering how you enter into this lottery or how did you win since you did not buy any ticket, well as your claim and disbursement agent, my job is to explain to you and take you through necessary step to be able to claim your win fund and to make sure that fund is delivered to you as the rightfull winner of this claim number (JH/CA-0011).

You have been entered into our lottery system automatically through our sources random pickings. What i mean by this is that, this corporation collect names and addresses of participants through various sources like GROCERY STORES, GAS STATIONS, SALONS, ONLINE SWEEPSTAKE COMPANIES, CREDIT CARD PURCHASING POINT, CASH POINTS e.t.c.

Based on this random picking system, you are one of the lucky winners of our second category to share a sum of 9million US DOLLARS. According to the letter that you received, your share of the money is $250,000 (TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS).

Therefore, i need to inform you that the Audit/Payment department will issue and mail to you a check of $4,975 (FOUR THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS) which will be deducted from your winning. You will be using some money on this first check to pay for the applicable Taxes on your winning.

When you receive this check, deposit it in your bank and withdraw a sum of $3895 (THREE THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE DOLLARS) which you will send through MoneyGram - Money Transfer System to the tax verification agent (find below the details of the tax agent). Please note that a subcharge of about $150 will be required for the transfer.

You can find MoneyGram Money Transfer office at all Walmart Stores.

TAX PAYMENT AND VERIFICATION AGENT:

[Details Removed]

Once you send the tax fund through Moneygram, kindly contact me immediately through phone, fax or email to let me know and also you will forward to me through email, the 8 digit transfer code on the receipt of the MoneyGram transfer for verification purpose.

After the tax is paid and confirmed, the Audit/Payment department will send to you a second check for the remaining amount that you won which is $245.025 (TWO HUNDRED AND FOURTY FIVE THOUSAND AND TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS) it will be a special, registered and insured package which will be delivered to you personally at your door by FedEx agent. If you require other form of payment either by bank draft or bank transfer, kindly specify.

Therefore, whenever you received the first check, kindly let me know and when you send the tax payment through moneygram, kindly contact me also so that i can do the needful and your second check will follow immediately.

Please, do not hesitate to contact me if you need further clarifications or questions.

Many Regards,
David
[Details Removed]


Commentary:
The above example illustrates an increasingly common tactic used by scammers, that is, the tendering of a bogus cheque in conjunction with a typical lottery scam. The message is a follow-up to an initial "Winning Notification" email that was most probably randomly sent to many thousands of Internet users. Normally, such follow-up emails will only be sent to those who take the "bait" dangled in the first scam email by replying. It is via these follow-up messages that the scammer is able to draw his potential victim further into his trap.

According to the message, the "lucky" recipient has won $250,000 in a lottery that he never even entered. The scammer claims no entry was necessary because the winner was chosen by the random selection of his name and address from a list automatically compiled from a range of sources. This claim is, of course, total nonsense and no legitimate lottery would operate in this manner.

In a "normal" lottery scam, the victim will eventually be asked to pay fees such as taxes or administration expenses before the supposed "winnings" can be released. However, the scam sometimes breaks down at this point because the victim does not have enough money to pay the requested fees or because he or she belatedly becomes suspicious. Often, victims will request that the fees be deducted from their winnings. Of course, the winnings do not exist and tricking the victim into paying upfront fees is the primary goal of the scam, so the scammer will not agree to such requests. The scammer will general invent some excuse such as an insurance restriction to explain why the fees cannot be deducted from the prize money.

However, in the variation discussed here, the scammer can avoid this stumbling block by sending his victim a cheque that is supposedly drawn from the winnings and is enough to cover the requested upfront fees. The cheque may seem legitimate and may even be cleared by the victim's bank. Lulled by the apparent legitimacy of the cheque, the victim is likely to electronically transfer the requested amount as instructed and then sit back and happily wait for his winnings to arrive.

Alas, the cheque will turn out to be fake or stolen and the victim will never receive a cent of his apparent windfall. Instead, he has become an unwitting patsy to the scammers by effectively laundering their ill-gotten gains. Sooner or later, the police may trace the money trail back to the victim, who after all, was the person who actually banked the bogus cheque. Meanwhile, the criminal will already have collected his loot via the money transfer and absconded.

Such scams are similar in intent to payment transfer job scam emails, which are also aimed at turning innocent people into criminal money launderers.

References:
Payment Transfer Job Scam Emails - Laundering Scams


[TOP]

Giant Snake in Electric Fence Photographs

Summary:
Email with photographs of a very large snake caught in an electric fence claims that the snake had been killing sheep on an Australian farm.

Status:
Genuine photographs - False Description

Example:(Submitted March 2007)
Electric Fence.... 2 photos Read story first!!!

An Australian sheep farmer was puzzled at the disappearance of sheep on his farm.

After a few weeks of sheep disappearing the farmer decided to put up an electric fence.

This is what he found!

Snake in electric fence 1

Snake in electric fence 1

Commentary:
These photographs of a large snake that has died after being caught in an electric fence have been circulating via email since 2005. The photographs are genuine. However, in most versions of the email, the description that accompanies the images is inaccurate.

The version discussed here claims that the snake was caught on an Australian sheep farm after the owner put up an electric fence to kerb the mysterious disappearance of some of his sheep. A number of other versions have similar cover stories set in different areas of the world.

In fact, the photographs were taken on the Silent Valley Game Ranch in Limpopo Province, South Africa. A web page on the game ranch website explains:
The snake in this picture had eaten a full grown Impala ewe and, sadly, caught itself in an electric fence.

Over four metres in length, this was a large specimen. When the python was skinned we found a full grown Impala ewe had just been swallowed.

The African Rock Python is identified as the third largest species of snake in the world.

References:
Silent Valley Game Ranch
African Rock Python (Python sebae)
African Rock Python


[TOP]

Breast Cancer Donations from M&M's

Summary:
Email claims that a portion of the profit from special bags of M&M's will be donated to breast cancer research.)

Status:
True, but but this promotion does not run continually.

Example:(Submitted, December 2004)
New M&M colors

Pass this on to all of your friends. There are many women out there who have breast cancer. Lets do all we can to support this cause.

New Pink &White M&M's The makers of M&M candies has teamed up with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to raise funds through the sale of their new " pink & white " M&M candies. For each 8-ounce bag of the special candies sold, the makers of M&M (Masterfoods) will donate 50 cents to the foundation. The next time you want a treat, please pick up a bag (now sold in stores nationwide) - you will be donating to a great cause and satisfying your sweet tooth.

Please pass on to all your family and friends. -- Thank you.


Commentary:
The email above may sound like a hoax at first glance. However, the information it contains is basically true, although a few of the details are outdated. During a specified period each year, a percentage of proceeds from specially packaged bags of M&M chocolate have indeed been donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The fund-raising campaign is set to be repeated in 2007. Information on the Susan G. Komen website notes:
In 2007, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is honored to continue its partnership with Masterfoods USA. From August 15 through October 31, 2007, Masterfoods USA will once again sell specially packaged bags of dark pink and light pink M&M'S Chocolate Candies in grocery and retail outlets throughout the nation. For each bag sold, Masterfoods USA will make a donation to Komen for the Cure, with a guaranteed minimum contribution of $550,000. For more information, visit www.mms.com.

Masterfoods will donate 35 cents for each 14-ounce package sold and 50 cents for each 21.3-ounce package sold. They will also donate 10 percent of special Komen blend purchases made online and up to 10 percent of the retail sales prices of co-branded gift items.

It should be noted that the fund-raising effort described in the message is not continuous. Masterfoods has run the campaign for a specified period during each of the past four years. Check the M&M's or Susan G. Komen websites for current campaign dates.

The email forward promoting this fund-raiser has been circulating continually since the first campaign started in 2003 although for much of that time no such campaign was in operation. Therefore, some of the details in the message, such as the size of the special packets and the amount per packet is now inaccurate.

This campaign is for a very good cause and is well worth supporting. If you forward the email however, please ensure that you inform your recipients that the campaign is not continuous and the specified details may not be current. You should also keep in mind that the promotion is run by MasterFoods USA and therefore may not be available to those living outside the United States.

References:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
M&MS Brand Chocolate Candies
M&M's Home

[TOP]

Mr Common Sense Virus Hoax Email

Summary:
Message claims that a dangerous computer virus is being distributed via an email with the subject line "Obituary of the late Mr Common Sense".

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted April 2007)
VERY IMPORTANT WARNING

Please Be Extremely Careful especially if using internet mail such as Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and so on This information arrived this morning direct from both Microsoft and Norton.

Please send it to everybody you know who has access to the Internet.

You may receive an apparently harmless email with a HEADING
"Obituary of the late Mr Common Sense... may he rest in peace!"

If you receive it DO NOT OPEN THE FILE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, and delete it immediately. If you open this file, the original sender will gain access to your name, e-mail and password, the virus slowly degrades your computer memory and will periodically crash your operating system. The virus concels itself as conservative humor, and is most likely to infect the computers of republicans, liberterians and cranky old men.

This is a new virus which started to circulate on Saturday afternoon. AOL has already confirmed the severity, and the antivirus software's are not capable of destroying it. The virus has been created by a hacker who calls himself "Mr. common sense."

PLEASE SEND A COPY OF THIS EMAIL TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS and ask them to PASS IT ON IMMEDIATELY


Commentary:
According to this warning message, a new and destructive computer virus is targeting webmail users and arrives in an email with the subject line, "Obituary of the late Mr Common Sense... may he rest in peace". However, the claims in the message are untrue. There is no virus like the one described in the warning. In fact, the message is just a variant of the Life is Beautiful Virus Hoax that has been hitting inboxes since 2002.

Some of the wording of the original hoax has been changed to include references to "Mr Common Sense" rather than "Life is Beautiful" and the supposedly destructive results of the "virus" have also been modified.

The prankster was apparently inspired by a popular satirical piece called Obituary of the Late Mr. Common Sense by writer Allen Jesson. As the name implies, the piece laments the passing of "Common Sense", along with some of his relatives:
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

[.......]

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 3 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else Is To Blame, and Im A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

Read full artcile

The piece has been published on a number of websites and is also a popular blog and forum topic. The reference to "conservative humor" in the hoax email is most probably directed at Mr. Jesson's article. However, whether you agree with Mr. Jesson's sentiments or not, the piece certainly does not conceal a computer virus.

Ironically, the hoax itself may well be intended as humorous commentary like the article that inspired it. According to the message, the virus "is most likely to infect the computers of republicans, liberterians and cranky old men". Clearly, not even the most advanced computer virus can choose its targets based on their political orientation, age, gender or general demeanour.

Thus, the "warning" may have been intended as a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the original hoax. Nevertheless, submissions indicate that some recipients are apparently taking the "virus warning" at face value and believe that its claims are valid.

Virus hoaxes are one of the most "successful" types of hoaxes and often circulate continually for years. Moreover, legitimate virus warning emails sometimes mutate over time until any validity or relevance they once had is lost. Therefore, it is important to check the validity of any virus warnings that cross your inbox before you hit the "Forward" button. Otherwise, you may inadvertently help to clog the world's inboxes with pointless and confusing misinformation.

References:
Life is Beautiful Virus Hoax
Symantec: Life is Beautiful Hoax
Obituary of the Late Mr. Common Sense
Should Virus Warning Emails be Forwarded?
Virus Email Hoaxes


[TOP]

Microsoft Email Beta Test Hoax Continues

Summary:
Revamped version of the Microsoft email beta test hoax includes "testimonies" and a bank account screenshot of supposed money received. The message claims that Microsoft will send money to anybody who forwards it to others.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, April 2007)
Subject: FW: Cant lose, try it .... read testimonies below!

U won't believe it ...I just had a look at my bank statement & there was an extra .wait for it .......50 000.00 in my account ..this really works .........just do it ...I love u Douglas ....thank u some much for thinking of me & this GREAT gift !!!

------ HI GUYS

THIS IS NOT A SCAM - TRY IT!!

------

Hey Ben
I've already done this a few months ago, I received R9 569.00.
Regards,

I've just received 678$,my gosh there's nothing better than trying,you'll probably think it's a scam,,,it's not,,,you'll see.

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Hey Guys,
Just Thought i could make you all rich I just recieved 458$

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Hi,
I got $9386. Was shocked!!! This is cool. Please forward.

PLEASE NOTE MESSAGE:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I thought this was a scam myself, but two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on, Microsoft contacted me for my address and within days, I received a cheque for US$24, 800.00. You need to respond before the beta testing is over. If anyone can afford this Bill Gates is the man.

It's all marketing expense to him. Please forward this to as many people as possible. You are bound to get at least US$10, 000.00. We' re not going to help them out with their e-mail beta test without getting a little something for our time. My brother's girlfriend got in on this a few months ago. When I went to visit him for the Baylor/UT game.

She showed me her check. It was for the sum of $4,324.44 and was stamped "Paid In Full".

Like I said before, I know the law, and this is for real

Intel and AOL are now discussing a merger which would make them the largest Internet company and in an effort make sure that AOL remains the most widely used program, Intel and AOL are running an e-mail beta test.

When you forward this e-mail to friends, Intel can and will track it (if you are a Microsoft Windows user) for a two week time period.

For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $203.15.
For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $156.29
And for every third person that receives it , you will be paid $17.65.

Within two weeks, Intel will contact you for your address and then send you a check. I thought this was a scam myself, but a friend of my good friend's Aunt Patricia, who works at Intel, actually got a check of $4,54323 by forwarding this e-mail.

Try it; what have you got to lose????

Suresh ,
Windows XP Support - Research Team

Bogus Bank Account Inage


Commentary:
Multiple versions of this tired old hoax have been circulating since at least 1999. The messages claim that Intel and AOL are running an email beta test and that Microsoft will pay you a quite substantial sum of money each and every time you forward the email to others during a two week time period.

These claims are, of course, totally absurd. No such "beta test" is being conducted. Nor has one been conducted at any time in the past. And Microsoft certainly will not give you money just for forwarding an email.

This version of the hoax sports a series of "testimonies" supposedly added by various recipients who claim to have actually been sent money for forwarding the message. It also includes a bank statement screenshot showing an account with over $40,000 credit. The testimonies and screenshot are just rather lame attempts to add a measure of credibility to this foolish hoax. I dare say the testimonies were simply made up by one prankster or perhaps several working together. Since the bank statement does not include information about where the funds originated, it is virtually meaningless.

Moreover, the message contradicts itself. It claims that Intel and AOL are running the beta test and yet it is Microsoft that is supposedly footing the bill. In one paragraph, it states that Microsoft will pay the forwarder. In the next paragraph, it claims that Intel is the company that will send the cheque. The reason for this apparent confusion is that the message actually combines two earlier variants, one that targeted Microsoft and AOL and another that targeted AOL and Intel.

All versions of this hoax can be traced back to an even earlier hoax that began circulating way back in 1997:
Hello everybody, My name is Bill Gates. I have just written up an e-mail tracing program that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches 1000 people everyone on the list will receive $1000 at my expense. Enjoy.

Your friend,
Bill Gates

Considering how long this "beta test" has now been running, even Bill Gates would be bankrupt by now if he was really paying out money for every forwarded email. It is simply ridiculous to suggest that any sane company would even consider participating in such a haphazard and uncontrollable exercise.

Furthermore, in spite of the claims in these messages, there is no reliable or ethical method of tracking who sends a particular email to whom when the message could be expected to be forwarded many thousands of times. Accurately calculating how much money should be sent to how many people would be impossible.

The message claims that recipients have nothing to lose by participating ("Try it, what have you got to lose?). Well one thing you risk losing is your credibility. Being gullible enough to fall for this one is sure to earn you a degree of ridicule from at least a few of those you forward it to, even if they keep their ridicule to themselves. By sending it onward, you also help to clutter inboxes around the world with one more piece of unwanted email nonsense.

For other examples of this hoax, see:
Money from Microsoft Giveaway Hoax


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Hoax-Slayer Humour: Top 45 Oxymorons

This one was posted on the Hoax-Slayer Forums. I think #10 and #1 are especially apt..Smile

Top 45 Oxymorons

45. Act naturally
44. Found missing
43. Resident alien
42. Advanced BASIC
41. Genuine imitation
40. Airline Food
39. Good grief
38. Same difference
37. Almost exactly
36. Government organization
35. Sanitary landfill
34. Alone together
33. Legally drunk
32. Silent scream
31. Living dead
30. Small crowd
29. Business ethics
28. Soft rock
27. Butt Head
26. Military Intelligence
25. Software documentation
24. New classic
23. Sweet sorrow 22. Childproof
21. "Now, then ..."
20. Synthetic natural gas
19. Passive aggression
18. Taped live
17. Clearly misunderstood
16. Peace force
15. Extinct Life
14. Temporary tax increase
13. Computer jock
12. Plastic glasses
11. Terribly pleased
10. Computer security
9. Political science
8. Tight slacks
7. Definite maybe
6. Pretty ugly
5. Twelve ounce pound cake
4. Diet ice cream
3. Working vacation
2. Exact estimate
1. Microsoft Works
Enjoy a good laugh?
Read my review of the "That's Comedy! Joke Book"


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