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Issue 72 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 72: May, 2007

This month in Hoax-Slayer:
Read Previous Issues


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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Help Find Madeleine McCann Email

Summary:
Email forwards asks recipients to help find four year old Madeleine McCann by passing on her photograph and information about her abduction.

Status:
True

Example 1:(Submitted May 2007)
Subject: Madeleine, Age 3: Please help find Madeleine for her Mummy and Daddy

Passed on by a friend - please take the time to send this one on

On behalf of Kate and Gerry McCann and all the family, please help us find Madeleine.

Madeleine, age 3, was abducted from her bed in the family holiday apartment, Praia De Luz, Algarve, Portugal on Thursday, 3rd May.

Police and all of Portugal are trying to find her. The Portuguese people, holiday makers and ex pats have been a great support to the family and continue their efforts.

You, too can help. Please circulate this plea to publicise Madeleine's photo and ask for information, no matter how small to be passed on to the authorities.

Whether you are in the UK, Portugal, Europe or beyond, please forward to all your family, friends,colleagues and business associates. Someone out there will have some information that will lead to Maddy's return.

The internet can be a powerful tool in finding Maddy, who is so loved and missed by us all.

Let's use it positively. Please pray for Madeleine and all the family at this devastating time. We need your help.We know you won't let Maddy

down.

Madeleine McCann


Example 2(Submitted May 2007)
Madeleine McCann

Please Pass this email on to everyone in your address book and they reckon it could cover 80% of the world's inboxes in 2 weeks.

Madeleine McCann's family believe a new picture of the missing four-year-old could play a vital role in the search for her. The photo of the youngster shows clearly the her distinctive right eye where the pupil runs into the blue-green iris. It is this distinguishing mark that will identify Madeleine to those on the lookout for her, according to aunt and uncle John and Diane McCann.

The Glasgow couple aim to distribute the appeal poster, which features the Crimestoppers telephone number as far afield as they can.

Family friend Andrew Renwick told Sky News that support for the search had been "overwhelming" and her family were extremely grateful.

Mrs McCann said: "The purpose of the poster is to highlight the distinction in Madeleine's eye. "We want to make the most of it, because we know her hair could potentially be cut or dyed." Mr McCann added: "The poster was designed by a friend of the family and I've begun Emailing it to acquaintances in different parts of the world.

"I'm asking people to circulate it the best they can and make it be seen."

Madeleine's Eye Holds Vital Clue
Madeleine McCann 1Madeleine McCann 2

Commentary:
This email forward provides information about the abduction of four-year-old Madeleine McCann and urges recipients to pass the message on in the hope that it will eventually reach someone who has seen the child or has some information that might help locate her.

Unfortunately, the information in the message is true. On May 3 2007, Madeleine disappeared from a resort in Algarve, Portugal where her family was holidaying. The family lives in Rothley, a village in Leicestershire, England.

Police believe that the child was abducted. Child abduction experts from Britain have joined Portuguese police to help in the investigation. In neighbouring Spain, football star David Beckham has made a televised appeal for information about Madeleine. A Scottish businessman has offered a reward of £1 million for information leading to the safe return of the child.

The UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), has also launched a web-based appeal and poster campaign to help find Madeleine.

The CEOP website lists the following phone numbers for reporting information about Madeleine:

Call Portuguese Police direct on 00351 282 405 400
Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111


For ongoing information about the case or to contribute to a fund to help find Madeleine, see:
Bring Madeleine Home

References:
Madeleine parents 'won't give up'
£1 million reward offered in search for British girl
HELP FIND MADELEINE McCANN
Police 'doing all they can' to find abducted Madeleine McCann
Bring Madeleine Home

[TOP]



Strawberry Quick Methamphetamine Warning

Summary:
Emails warn that a form of strawberry colored and scented methamphetamine dubbed "Strawberry Quick" is being distributed.

Status:
Contains elements of truth. However, email warnings are highly exaggerated and inaccurate.

Example 1:(Submitted, October 2007)
IF YOU HAVE A CHILD THEN READ THIS!

PLEASE PASS THIS TO ANYONE THAT HAS SMALL CHILDREN!!

Parents Beware

Halloween Warning for Parents

There is a type of crystal meth going around that looks like strawberry pop rocks. It smells like strawberry also and it is being handed out to kids in school yards in AR. I'm sure it will make its way around the country. Kids are ingesting this thinking it is candy and being rushed off to the ER in dire condition.

It also comes in chocolate, peanut butter, cola, cherry, grape and orange. It looks just like pop rocks.

Please instruct children to not accept candy that looks like this even from a friend and to take any that they may have to a teacher, principal, etc.

Pass this around it could save some family a lot of heartache! They call it strawberry meth or strawberry quick.

Special Agent Todd V. Coleman
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement
[Contact details removed]



Example 2:(Submitted, May 2007)
Subject: new form of crystalized methamphetamine

I have been alerted by one of our EMT's for our volunteer fire department that they have received emails from emergency responder organizations to be on the lookout for a new form of crystalized methamphetamine that is targeted at children and to be aware of this new form if called to an emergency involving a child that may have symptoms of drug induction or overdose.

They are calling this new form of meth "Strawberry Quick" and it looks like the "Pop Rocks" candy that sizzle in your mouth. In its current form, it is dark pink in color and has a strawberry scent to it.

Please advise your children and their friends and other students not to accept candy from strangers as this is obviously an attempt to seduce children into drug use. They also need to be cautious in accepting candy from even friends that may have received it from someone else, thinking it is just candy.

Strawberry Quick Methamphetamine


Commentary:
Emails advising recipients about "Strawberry Quick", a form of pink, strawberry scented methamphetamine began hitting inboxes in April 2007. New versions of the message that claimed strawberry meth was being actively handed out in schoolyards began circulating several months later. The messages warn that unsuspecting children may be more willing to try the drug or take a dose by accident because it looks and smells like candy.

This new form of methamphetamine is apparently real, although it appears that its distribution may actually be very uncommon. According to a May 2007 Associated Press article, "Strawberry Quick" came to the attention of drug enforcement agents after the Nevada Department of Public Safety released a bulletin about the substance in January 2007.

However, some months after these initial reports it appears that authorities have found very little evidence to suggest that flavored meth is a widespread problem. An article on the Join Together website notes:
However, both the DEA and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy told Join Together that they have not been able to identify a single confirmed seizure of flavored meth.

"There are a lot of people in prevention and law enforcement talking about it, but in terms of actual seizures we haven't seen much," said Tom Riley, a spokesperson for ONDCP. Rojean White, a spokesperson for the DEA, told Join Together that while local DEA agents have heard stories about flavored meth from local law-enforcement colleagues, they "haven't had any" seizures themselves.
Thus, the large amount of media attention given to reports of flavored meth, along with emailed "warnings", have probably made the threat seem a lot more significant than it really is. The Join Together article suggests that some law enforcement agencies may be confusing flavored meth with meth that is simply colored. Some types of meth are pink in color because of dye used in the pills it is manufactured from. Although this pink meth may seemingly confirm reports of strawberry quick, it is not flavored and not specifically aimed at children.

Moreover, claims in some versions of the warning email that strawberry meth is being handed out in schoolyards are unfounded. There are no credible reports to back up these claims in any way. If children were "being rushed off to the ER in dire condition" after ingesting flavored meth in the school yard, there would certainly be media and police reports detailing such incidents.

One version may seem more legitimate because it is seemingly endorsed by Special Agent Todd Coleman. However, Agent Colemen told About Urban Legends that he did not issue the warning. Agent Coleman's apparent endorsement became part of the forward because his email signature was added to a copy of the message that he sent to a colleague for verification.

It is true that children are likely to be more susceptible to a comparatively attractive, flavored form of the drug. That said, even if there are dealers actively distributing "Strawberry Quick", they are probably not specifically targeting children. Meth has a harsh, chemical taste so making the drug more palatable by adding flavoring may help dealers market it. In reality, it is more likely that "enhanced" forms of the drug would be targeted at teenagers and young adults rather than children.

Although the threat of flavored meth may not be as significant as authorities first believed, US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Grassley took it seriously enough to introduce legislation that will "increase the federal criminal penalties for drug dealers who entice children with candy-flavored methamphetamine and other flavored drugs".

Parents and guardians should certainly talk to their children about this issue. However, current versions of the email warning about flavored meth are highly exaggerated and inaccurate. The claims in these messages should not be taken seriously.





References:
Meth Ado About Nothing?
About Urban Legends
Methamphetamine
Candy-Flavored Meth Targets New Users
Flavored meth use on the rise
Senators Feinstein and Grassley Introduce Legislation to Penalize Drug Dealers Who Market Candy-Flavored Meth to Children

[TOP]



Dell Online Store Trojan Email

Summary:
Email claims to confirm a Dell Online Store credit card order for a digital camera worth $865 AUD.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, May 2007)
Subject: Your order #34214223 has been accepted for the amount 865.00 AUD

Thank you for shopping with us.

Your order #34214223 Canon DF-E037 8.0 MP Digital Camera has been accepted for the amount 865.00 AUD.

Your card will be charged in that amount.

Thank you for your purchase.

You can check the order in your profile.

[Link to malicious website removed]

Thank you.
Dell Online Store.


Commentary:
In May 2007, people began reporting an unsolicited email purporting to be an order confirmation for a digital camera from the Dell Online Store. The message claims that the recipient's credit card has been charged for a Canon DF-E037 8.0 MP Digital Camera at a cost of 865.00 AUD. A link in the email supposedly leads to a website where the recipient can check the order.

However, the claims in the message are untrue. Although the sender may appear to be a legitimate Dell email address, the address is bogus and the message does not originate from Dell. Instead, the email is intended to trick the recipient into downloading information stealing malware to his or her computer. The link in the email leads to a malicious website that installs a trojan that can then search for sensitive information such as bank account numbers stored on the infected computer.

Unsuspecting recipients will have a natural inclination to investigate what they perceive as an unauthorized charge to their credit card and may therefore click on the link in the mistaken belief that they will access more information about the supposed order. The hacker capitalizes on the likelihood that his potential victim will be panicked or angered by the supposed charge and may therefore be more inclined to click on the included link without due caution. Similar tactics are commonly used by scammers and hackers.

If you receive an email like the example shown above, do not click on any links in the message. In fact, be very caution of clicking on links in any unsolicited emails. If you receive an unsolicited message that appears to relate to a credit card purchase that you did not make, contact your credit card provider or the vendor directly rather than follow a link in the message.

References:
Experts comment on fake Dell email
AL-AusCert - Dell online Store Trojan emails

[TOP]



Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb Mercury Warning

Summary:
News reports claim that if a Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL) is broken, it can release dangerous levels of mercury into the house and a professional environmental cleanup crew is required to handle the problem.

Status:
CFL's do contain mercury but an environmental cleanup crew is not required if a bulb breaks.

Example:(Submitted, May 2007)
Subject: Mercury Alert

WASHINGTON - Brandy Bridges heard the claims of government officials, environmentalists and retailers like Wal-Mart all pushing the idea of replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving and money-saving compact fluorescent lamps.

So, last month, the Prospect, Maine, resident went out and bought two dozen CFLs and began installing them in her home. One broke. A month later, her daughter's bedroom remains sealed off with plastic like the site of a hazardous materials accident, while Bridges works on a way to pay off a $2,000 estimate by a company specializing in environmentally sound cleanups of the mercury inside the bulb.

Read full article

Commentary:
According to reports published online and circulating via email, Brandy Bridges of Maine, USA was advised that she needed to hire an expensive environmental cleanup crew to remove mercury from her daughter's room after a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) broke during installation.

An April 12 2007 Ellsworth American article reported on the incident. According to the article, Bridges was advised to contact the Main Department of Environmental Protection, who sent out a specialist to assess the levels of mercury in the house:
The specialist arrived soon after the phone conversation and began testing the downstairs, where he found safe levels of mercury — below the state’s limit of 300 ng/m3 (nanograms per cubic meter).

In the daughter’s bedroom, the levels remained well below the 300 mark, except for near the carpet where the bulb broke. There the mercury levels spiked to 1,939 ng/m3. On a bag of toys that bulb fragments had landed on, the levels of mercury were 556 ng/m3.

Bridges was told by the specialist not to clean up the bulb and mercury powder by herself. He recommended the Clean Harbors Environmental Services branch in Hampden.
Clean Harbors quoted $2000 to do the cleanup and Bridges was forced to seal up the bedroom with plastic sheeting until she can afford to pay to have the work done.

WorldNetDaily and other news outlets soon took up the story. As shown in the above example the WorldNetDaily article began circulating via email and has also been posted to blogs and online forums.

Although there is no reason to doubt the truth of the events outlined in the reports, it seems that Bridges was apparently given quite poor advice on this issue because she could have safely cleaned up the broken bulb herself.

CFL's do contain mercury, although the amount of mercury in an average bulb is tiny. A Mercury Fact Sheet published on Energy Star, a website run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, states:
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 5 milligrams, which is roughly equivalent to an amount that would cover the tip of a ball-point pen. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury. It would take 100 CFLs to equal that amount.

Mercury currently is an essential component of CFLs and is what allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. Many manufacturers have taken significant steps to reduce mercury used in their fluorescent lighting products. In fact, the average amount of mercury in a CFL is anticipated to drop by the end of 2007, thanks to technology advances and a commitment from the members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
Nevertheless, mercury is a dangerous substance and some caution is therefore required when cleaning up broken bulbs. However, so long as commonsense precautions are taken, there is no need to hire a professional hazardous waste cleanup crew to deal with a shattered CFL. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the following guidelines for dealing with a broken CFL:

What to Do if a Fluorescent Light Bulb Breaks

Fluorescent light bulbs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

  1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.

  2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner.

    • Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands).

    • Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard.

    • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe.

    • Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.

  3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it.

    • If your state permits you to put used or broken fluorescent light bulbs in the garbage, seal the bulb in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available).

    • Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.

  4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

Moreover, Maine's Department of Environmental Protection has published a similar set of guidelines on its website. It is unclear why the DEP apparently advised Brandy Bridges to call in a professional cleanup crew since this seemingly contradicts its own guidelines. DEP spokesperson Scott Cowger told the Ellsworth American that there is no need to hire professionals to clean up a broken bulb. The article notes that the "specialist who responded to Bridges' broken bulb was trained to respond to chemical spills and to clean up such spills to 'appropriate standards'".

Thus, Bridges may have talked to a particular staff member who was simply not conversant with the appropriate DEP guidelines or perhaps there was a misunderstanding about the severity of the contamination.

It would be unfortunate if this story dissuades people from shifting from the traditional incandescent bulbs to the much more economical and environmentally friendly CFL's. Ironically, the use of CFL's actually reduces overall mercury emissions. CFL's use less coal-generated electricity than incandescent bulbs and coal-fired power plants around the world emit significant amounts of mercury.

That said, given that environmental groups and governments around the world are pushing people to switch to CFL's, perhaps more needs to be done to make CFL users aware of safe cleanup procedures for bulb breakages.

References:
Consumers in dark over risks of new light bulbs
Fluorescent Bulb Break Creates Costly Hassle
What if I break a fluorescent bulb in my home?
Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury
Mercury Emissions - A Global Problem


[TOP]



Derbyshire Fairy Hoax

Summary:
Message claims that photographs show the remains of a fairy found in Derbyshire, England.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted April 2007)
Subject: Do Fairies live at the bottom of your garden?

Maybe not anymore, but a recent discovery would suggest that they probably did. What appear to be the mummified remains of a fairy have been discovered in the Derbyshire countryside.

The 8 inch remains complete with wings; skin, teeth and flowing red hair have been examined by anthropologists and forensic experts who can confirm that the body is genuine. X-rays of the 'fairy' reveal an anatomically identical skeleton to that of a child. The bones however, are hollow like those of a bird making them particularly light. The puzzling presence of a navel even suggests that the beings reproduce the same as humans despite the absense of reproductive organs.

The remains were discovered by a local man, who wishes to remain anonymous, while walking his dog along an old Roman road situated between the villages of Duffield and Belper.

Derbyshire Fairy 1

Derbyshire Fairy 2

Note: Original message included several other photographs of the "fairy" which can be viewed in their original context here.



Commentary:
According to the description that accompanies these photographs, they show the remains of a fairy that was discovered by a man walking his dog between villages in Derbyshire, England. However, the fairy depicted in the photographs is actually a model created as an April Fool's Day prank by UK artist and magician, Dan Baines.

Mr Baines placed the images on a website along with a detailed, although entirely fictional, description of the "find". The website quickly received thousands of visitors interested in the Derbyshire fairy and its author was inundated with emails on the subject. On April 1st, Mr Baines added a statement to the website, acknowledging that the fairy was a fake. He wrote:
Even if you believe in fairies, as I personally do, there will always have been an element of doubt in your mind that would suggest the remains are a hoax. However, the magic created by the possibility of the fairy being real is something you will remember for the rest of your life.

Alas the fairy is fake but my interest and belief has allowed me to create a work of art that is convincing and magical. I was also interested to see if fairy folklore is still a valid belief in modern society and I am pleased to say that yes it is! I have had more response from believers than I ever thought possible.
The images and selected parts of the description were soon posted on other websites, forums and blogs and also began circulating via email. However, many of the circulating versions did not include the artist's statement owning up to the prank. The model is of such good quality, and the description so convincing, that many people truly believed that the "find" was genuine.

Humans have long had an intense fascination with magical creatures. Perhaps, deep down, many of us would like to believe that fairies really do live at the bottom of our gardens. The surprising popularity of the Derbyshire fairy suggests that it has successfully tapped into that deep-seated human fantasy. In fact, despite the artist's public statement, some have refused to believe that the fairy is not real and have even suggested a government conspiracy.

On April 8, 2007 the fairy was sold on eBay for £280.00 and, according to the BBC, is now in a private art collection in the United States.

Hopefully, the sale has provided some manner of closure to fairy lovers around the world. But, be warned, Dan Baines admits that he is now addicted to April Fool's Day pranks and advises that more may follow. Smile

References:
Do Fairies live at the bottom of your garden?
Fairy fool sparks huge response
April fool fairy sold on internet
eBay Listing
Mummy fetches fairy good price


[TOP]

PayPal Billing Information Update Scam

Summary:
Email claims that the recipient's PayPal account will be suspended if billing information is not updated.

Status:
False - The message is a phishing scam designed to steal personal information.

Example:(Submitted, May 2007)
Subject: Notification : Paypal Billing Department

Security Center Advisory

Your PayPal billing information is out of date and needs to be updated. If you could please take 5-10 minutes out of your online experience to update your billing information, you will not run into any future problems with the online service.

Failure to update your records will result in account suspension.

Once you have updated your account records, your PayPal session will not be interrupted and will continue as normal.

Update your records now click on the following link:
[Link to bogus website removed]

This new security issue will help us continue to offer PayPal as a secure and cost-effective payment service. We appreciate your cooperation and assistance.

If you chose to ignore our request, you leave us no chose but to temporally suspend your account.

Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response. For assistance, log in to your PayPal account and choose the Help link located in the top right corner of any PayPal page.


Commentary:
This email message purports to be from online payment company PayPal and warns recipients that their account will be suspended if they do not update their account details. However, the message is not from PayPal but is instead part of a typical phishing scam designed to steal personal information.

A link in the scam email leads to a bogus website designed to look almost identical to a genuine PayPal login page. If a victim falls for this ruse and logs in, he or she will be asked to fill in an online web form that request sensitive personal and financial information including address details, a credit card number and a social security number. Like the login page, this bogus form looks almost exactly like a genuine PayPal web page complete with seemingly legitimate logos and site navigation elements. A screenshot of part of the bogus form is shown below:

Bogus Webform

All information entered into the form can be collected by scammers and used to conduct fraudulent transactions and commit identity theft.

The link in the scam email is disguised using HTML so that it looks like a genuine PayPal web address.

Phishing scammers regularly target high profile financial institutions such as PayPal. Be very caution of any unsolicited email that asks you to follow a link or open an attachment and provide personal details. PayPal has information about phishing scams on its website.

For a more detailed analysis of phishing scams, see:
Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information

References:
Check Links in HTML Emails
PayPal: Phishing Guide
Phishing Scams - Anti-Phishing Information


[TOP]

Japanese Sheep for Poodles Hoax

A bogus story about a sheep for poodle substitution scam in Japan has effectively pulled the wool over the eyes of many Western news outlets.

On April 26 2007, The Sun newspaper in Great Britain published a story that claimed many wealthy Japanese women had been duped into buying ordinary lambs in the mistaken belief that the animals were highly coveted miniature poodles. According to The Sun:
THOUSANDS of rich women were conned by a firm into believing LAMBS were valuable miniature POODLES.

Entire flocks were imported to Japan from the UK and Australia then sold by the internet company as the latest "must have" pet.

The bizarre scam was rumbled when Japanese movie star Maiko Kawakami complained on a talk show that her new poodle refused to bark or eat dog food.

Many other news outlets pounced on the story and it was subsequently retold in newspapers and on television and radio around the world. However, it seems that The Sun, a publication not exactly known for reliable reporting, got the facts of the story seriously wrong.

Apparently, Maiko Kawakami never claimed to own one of the "poodles" at all. Instead, she heard the story about sheep being passed off as poodles while attending a beauty salon and found it amusing. She then retold the story when she appeared on a Japanese television talk show.

The Sun article claimed that the Japanese police suspected that thousands of people had been caught out by the scam and were investigating. However a Japanese police spokesperson told Australian TV's MediaWatch program:
We have never investigated this incident, and we have never been asked to investigate such an incident. I have also checked with Hokkaido's consumer complaints office, and they have never had any complaint about this.
Moreover, a Ninesmn article notes:
Tall stories are common on Japanese talk shows and their authenticity is not carefully checked.

A Tokyo-based entertainment and culture reporter said she had not heard of the story. The story had not been reported in any Japanese newspapers, she said.
The Sun article claimed that the Japanese were more likely to fall for the scam because "sheep are rare in Japan and most people do not know what they look like". However, this claim is unfounded. Sheep are farmed in Japan, and it is highly unlikely that "most people" in the country do not know what the animals look like. Many city dwellers in all parts of the world may not have actually seen a lamb "in the flesh". However, virtually everyone, in Japan and elsewhere would have at least seen images of sheep in books, on television and movies, in advertisements or on the Internet. And, even if they somehow didn't know what lambs looked like, they would surely know what dogs look like and would be most unlikely to mistake one for a very different sort of animal. Perhaps a handful of especially gullible individuals might fall for such a ruse, but The Sun claimed that up to 2000 people had been scammed. This is improbable to say the least.

Thus, it seems that this International "news" story grew out of what may have been nothing more than an unsubstantiated anecdote idly passed along in a beauty shop. The story is strongly reminiscent of an old urban legend in which a hapless traveller in Mexico acquires an ugly but lovable little "dog" that she later discovers is a large rat.

Media outlets around the world seized this story with almost rabid glee. They lost no time in ridiculing those they believed had fallen for the scam. But, in reality, even reputable journalists mindlessly followed flawed findings in the original report just like a flock of sheep...I wonder who's laughing now!

Still, even if some are now feeling somewhat sheepish in retrospect, it has at least provided an opportunity to drop some cracking puns. Smile

View the MediaWatch TV Segment about this hoax (click "Play The video")


References:
Ewe've been conned ladies
MediaWatch: Journos Sold A Pup
Poodle scam story a hoax
Easy Guide to Hokkaido (Scroll to end for sheep photograph)
Hoax news story does the rounds worldwide


[TOP]

Photos of Houses in Weird Places

Summary:
Series of circulating images supposedly show houses built in strange locations.

Status:
Some images are manipulated - others are genuine

Example:(Submitted, April 2007)
Subject: Houses in weird places

Could you go to sleep at night and not wonder if these houses would be there the next morning?

How would you like to spend your nights in # 3

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Weird House 1 Weird House 5 Weird House 3 Weird House 11 Weird House 2 Weird House 6 Weird House 7 Weird House 8 Weird House 9 Weird House 10 Weird House 4



Commentary:
This interesting set of images is circulating via email and online. According to the accompanying text, the images depict unusual dwellings that have been built in various "weird" locations.

However, while some of the images are genuine photographs and show real buildings, others have been digitally manipulated. Moreover, while some of the buildings are real, not all are actually used as houses.

Each image is discussed in turn below:

Manipulated:
This image is an entry in the Bizarrchitecture 3 Photoshop contest conducted by Worth1000. The entry was created by Norrit and is titled Bond Mansion.




Manipulated:
This image is titled Kjerag Tower and is also by Norrit. It was an entry in the Bizarrchitecture 4 contest at Worth1000.




Manipulated:
This image is yet another Norrit entry for Bizarrchitecture 4. It is titled Afrodite's Eye.





Real:
The building is called Dar Al Hajar and is located in Yemen. The rock palace was built in the 1930's as a summer residence for the Imam Yahya and now houses a museum.




Real:
This amazing little house wedged between rocks is located on the coast near Plougrescant, in France.



Real:
This image shows the Treehouse Restaurant located in Okinawa, Japan. The "tree" holding the building is actually made of concrete.



Real:
The building in the photograph is the Thomas Point Lighthouse located in the US state of Maryland. This wonderful lighthouse was built in 1825 and will be preserved for future generations.



Real:
The image depicts the Westerheversand Lighthouse near Oldenswort, Germany.


Real:
The photograph shows a very old mill located near Vernon in France. The mill straddles two piers of an ancient bridge that crossed the Seine River and probably dates from the 16th Century. It is a popular subject for artists and photographers and was even painted by the artist Monet, who lived in the area in 1883.

Manipulated:
This image is also taken from the Worth1000, Bizarrchitecture 4 contest. It is an entry titled Icehouse by Cj




Manipulated:
Once again, the image is an entry in the Bizarrchitecture 4 contest at Worth1000. The image, titled You should see the front! is by solipsism.





[TOP]

Snake Pulling "Cow" Photograph

Summary:
Email claims that an attached photograph shows a large snake dragging the body of a cow out of a gorge waterhole.

Status:
Genuine photograph - Description is inaccurate

Example:(Submitted April 2007)
Subject: FW: INCREDIBLE !

THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN IN AUSTRALIA. LOOK CLOSELY ... THAT IS A SNAKE PULLING A COW OUT OF THE WATER !

Snake Pulling Cow
View Full Size Image


Commentary:
According to this email forward, the attached photograph shows a large snake pulling the carcass of a cow out of a canyon waterhole somewhere in Australia.

Unlike many images that circulate via email, this photograph is genuine. However, the dead animal is not a cow, although it certainly does appear cow-like at first glance. It is, in fact, a wallaroo (euro), a stocky Macropod that is generally larger than a wallaby, but smaller than a kangaroo. Wallaroos are found in many areas of the Australian continent.

The snake is an Olive python, one of the largest species of python found in northern Australia. The photograph, taken in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, was featured in an article published on the ABC Far North Qld website in July 2005. The article notes:
The picture shows a large Olive python capturing dinner - a wallaroo or euro.

Note the size of the python, which if you look closely you can see disappearing out the right hand side of the frame. How much more of it is there, curled around the escarpment it so beautifully blends with?
The person who apparently took the photograph, identified only as "Jody" in the ABC article, added the following entry to the site's guestbook:
I hope you enjoyed the photo that we took recently while hiking in a gorge in northern Western Australia. The phython was not able to lift the wallaby after trying for approximately one hour. We left him catching his breath on a rock ledge above the pool.
Although the python in the photograph is certainly very large, the misperception that its potential meal is a cow rather than a wallaroo may cause observers to believe that it is somewhat larger than it really is.

References:
Wikipedia: Wallaroo
Animal Bytes - Olive Python
ABC Far North QLD: Kimberly Fishing

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