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Issue 73 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 73: June & July, 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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Cooking an Egg with Mobile Phones

Summary:
Message claims that an egg can be cooked by placing it between two active mobile (cell) phones.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, June 2007)
We need:

One egg and 2 mobiles
65 minutes to call from one phone to the other
Set up something like in the graphic

Cooking an egg with a mobile phone

We'll initiate the call between the mobiles to last for 65 min's approximately;
Nothing will happen on the first 15 minutes...

After 25 minutes the egg starts warming up, after 45 min's;
The egg is already hot; and after 65 min's the egg is cooked

Eating egg cooking with mobilr phones

Conclusion:
If the microwave radiation emitted by the mobiles is capable to modify the proteins in the egg. Imagine what it can do with the proteins in our brains when we talk through the mobiles.

Photo credits: Komsomolskaya Pravda


Commentary:
According to this message it is possible to cook an egg by placing it in between two call-connected mobile (cell) phones. Versions of the message have been circulating via email, blogs and online forums since at least 2006. The version discussed here typically travels as a Microsoft Word email attachment, complete with photographs.

The information in the message is untrue. An article that detailed how to cook an egg with mobile phones was first published on the Wymsey Village website in 2000, supposedly by Suzzanna Decantworthy and Sean McCleanaugh. However, the article was a hoax and the names of the writers were made up. The creator of Wymsey Village Web, Charlie Ivermee, eventually admitted to Gelf Magazine in 2006 that he was the real author of the prank article. He explains that, back in the year 2000, he decided to "add to the silliness" surrounding mobile phone health concerns by penning the piece. He explained to Gelf that he "really underestimated how many people would take it seriously".

During 2006, two Russian journalists, Vladimir Lagovski and Andrei Moiseynko, gave the hoax a whole new life when they claimed to have cooked an egg in around 65 minutes using two mobile phones. Ivermee's original hoax article was apparently the inspiration for the experiment. An article discussing the experiment was featured in Russian publication, Komsomolskaya Pravda. The photographs and text in many of the circulating versions of the story are derived from this Russian article. However, the results of the Russian experiment have never been substantiated and are highly questionable. Others who have tried the same experiment have failed to even warm the egg, let alone actually cook it. The Three Wise Men website details an experiment in which three mobile phones, and several other devices that emit radiation were all combined in an egg cooking attempt that turned out to be a dismal failure. Freelance food writer Paul Adams also attempted the experiment and subsequently wrote about it in a New York Times article. He told National Public Radio (NPR) that, although he left an egg between two cell phones for around an hour and a half, the egg did not cook. Moreover, UK television science show, Brainiac, tried the experiment with no less than 100 mobile phones, but, again, the egg did not cook.

Most commentators agree that two mobile phones simply could not emit enough energy to actually cook an egg. An article debunking the hoax on the Mobile Manufacturers Forum website notes:
[T]he claim that RF energy from two mobile phones can cook an egg in 60 minutes cannot be true as it is impossible for the egg's temperature to rise to a level that will cook the egg. We can demonstrate this as follows: even if you assume that each mobile phone is emitting RF energy at its maximum average power of 0.25 W (based on a peak power of 2 W per phone) for 60 minutes; and even if the total power (2 X 0.25 W = 0.5 W) of both phones was completely absorbed by the egg (assuming it weighs 50 g), then the result would be a maximum temperature rise after 60 minutes of only 13 C. Even if the egg was at room temperature before starting the experiment, the result would still be far below the temperature actually needed to cook an egg (which is approx. 65- 70 C).

In reality, an egg placed between two phones would have a much lower temperature rise because the egg is not thermally insulated and it would only absorb a small portion of the energy emitted.
So, although this story has spread far and wide, and some of the sites on which it has been published still claim it to be true, in reality, it has no basis in fact. You cannot cook an egg with a pair of mobile phones.

References:
Wymsey Weekend - Weekend Eating: Mobile Cooking
How to Cook an Egg (and Create a Viral Sensation)
Translated Version: Can I cook the egg with a mobile phone?
Original Russian Version: Can I cook the egg with a mobile phone?
HOW-NOT-TO, Cook an Egg With Your Cell Phone
Take Egg Off Speed Dial
A Hard-Boiled Writer Eggs Himself On
Brainiac - Episode 14: Micro Waves
Mythbusters Fanclub: Cooking an egg with cell phones
Cooking an egg by two mobile phones: Hoax


[TOP]



Marks & Spencer Voucher Giveaway Hoax

Summary:
Message claims that Marks & Spencer and Persimmon Homes are giving away vouchers worth up to £500 for those who forward the email to others.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, June 2007)
Fw: Free M&S vouchers

Marks & Spencer's, in conjunction with Persimmon Homes, are giving away free vouchers. Marks & Spencer's are trying word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its products and the reward you receive for advertising for them is free non-refundable vouchers to be used in any M&S store.

To receive your free vouchers by e-mail all you have to do is to send this email out to 8 people (for £100 of free vouchers) or 20 people (for £500 of free vouchers).

Within 2 weeks you will receive an e-mail with your vouchers attached. They will contact you through your e-mail address.

Please mark a copy to:[email address removed]

Commentary:
This email forward claims that UK retailer, Marks & Spencer and UK building company Persimmon Homes are offering free vouchers to people who forward the email to a specified number of people. According to the message, those who forward the email to 8 people will receive £100 worth of M&S vouchers while those who forward it to 20 people will receive M&S vouchers valued at £500.

However, the claims in the message are entirely untrue. The email is just one more in a long line of similar hoaxes that claim money, vouchers or products are being given away in exchange for forwarding a message.

As the following example illustrates, it seems that the prankster responsible has simply used an older hoax about free mobile phones as a template and altered company and product details accordingly:
SonyErricsson is giving away phones for free. SonyErricsson is Trying word-of-mouth advertising to introduce its product and the reward You receive for advertising for them is a free phone free of cost.

To receive your free phone all you have to do is to send this email Out to 8 people (for a free SonyErricsson j200i) or 20 people (for a Free SonyErricsson k400i WAP).

Within 2 weeks you will receive a free phone. (They will contact you through your e-mail address). Please mark a copy to: - anna.swelam@sonyerricsson.com

In turn, the "SonyErricsson" hoax is just a modified version of an even older hoax that claimed Nokia was the company passing out free phones. Yet another version claims participants will receive a free laptop computer for forwarding messages. Not one of these various incarnations has even a grain of truth and the Marks & Spencer Voucher version is no exception.

The strong similarity to earlier versions is enough by itself to clearly identify the message as a hoax. Moreover, Persimmon Homes has now published a message on its website denying any involvement in the supposed promotion:
A hoax e-mail is being circulated offering a promotion of free Marks and Spencer vouchers for forwarding the e-mail to colleagues and friends.

Neither Marks and Spencer or Persimmon Homes have made any such promotional offer.

Please delete the hoax e-mail and notify the people to whom you have sent it that it is a hoax.
No legitimate company is ever likely to run a promotional campaign based on how many times a particular email is forwarded. It is simply absurd to suggest that a company would give away expensive products or vouchers in exchange for the haphazard and uncontrolled forwarding of an email. The reach and ease of use of email means that such a message could find its way to hundreds of thousands of inboxes within weeks. Given that there are no conditions or limitations included in the message, a participating company could soon find itself obligated to hand over millions of dollars worth of products or vouchers.

Of course, many companies do run promotional giveaways of various kinds. However, such promotions are sure to be very tightly controlled via time constraints, maximum expenditure limits or other qualifying factors. And information about a promotion, along with conditions or limitations, will be made available to consumers via advertising, product labels, official entry forms, the company website and other legitimate channels. Such information certainly would not rely solely on the random journey of a vague and poorly written email message.

In short, any message that claims that a particular company or organization is giving away money, products or services based on how many times an email is forwarded is virtually certain to be a hoax. Forwarding such messages serves only to clutter inboxes and make the sender seem a fool.



References:
Sony Ericsson Phone Giveaway Hoax
Nokia Giveaway Hoax
Ericsson Lap-Top Computer Giveaway Hoax
Marks & Spencer
Persimmon Homes Feedback: Hoax E-mails



[TOP]



Iraq Soldier Advance Fee Scam

Summary:
Email, supposedly from Sgt. Chuck White Fitte, claims that the recipient's help is needed to move millions of dollars in cash out of Iraq.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, June 2007)
From: Sgt.Chuck White Fitte

All responses to:- sgt_chuck_white01@yahoo.co.uk

Hello,

My name is Chuck White Fitte and I am an American soldier serving in the Military of the 1st Armored Division in Iraq. As you know, we are being attacked by insurgents everyday and car bombings. We stumbled into Saddam Hussein's storage vault and discovered funds belonging to his family. The total amount is US$25 Million dollars in cash, mostly 100 dollar bills tightly tied in $1000.00 bundles. We want to move this money to a reputable/sincere person for investment purposes. This is the reason for contacting you.

We are ready to compensate you with good percentage of the funds. The only thing we require from you is just for you to help us move the funds out of Iraq because Iraq is a war zone. We plan on using diplomatic means to shipping the money out as military cargo, using diplomatic immunity. If you are interested I will send you the full details. My job is to find a good and respectable partner with great repute that we can trust that will assist us. Can we trust you? When you receive this letter,kindly send me an e-mail signifying your interest including your most confidential telephone numbers and your full mailing address.

This is 100% risk free.
All responses to:- sgt_chuck_white01@yahoo.co.uk

Respectfully,
Sgt.Chuck White Fitte.

Commentary:
An increasingly common tactic being used by advance-fee scammers is to pretend to be a US soldier based in Iraq who has found a stash of hidden loot. In the example shown above, "Sgt.Chuck White Fitte" and his comrades have chanced upon a fortune in cash apparently hidden by Saddam Hussein. But, claims the email, the soldiers need your help to move this money out of Iraq so that they can invest it. And, of course, they are willing to offer you a generous percentage of all this lovely cash in exchange for your help.

Sounds like a great opportunity doesn't it? You could become a millionaire overnight just for helping out a bunch of patriotic soldiers who surely deserve a reward for the extreme hardship and danger they face every day. Sure, the money is not really theirs (or yours) to move or invest but Saddam certainly doesn't need it anymore and, in any case, the dictator probably stole it to begin with. So, really, you shouldn't have too much trouble in convincing yourself that the money is fair game, yes?

But, alas, the wads of cash are just a figment of some slimy scammer's imagination who is certainly not a soldier based in Iraq. Like thousands of similar variations, the email is designed to temp the gullible into agreeing to participate in this enticing, once-in-a-lifetime "opportunity". Once our hapless victim, Mr. Greedy Gullible, agrees to proceed, the scammers will begin sending him requests for upfront payments. These payments, Mr. Scumbag Scammer will claim, are entirely necessary if the deal is to be successful and they cannot, under any circumstances, be deducted from the lump sum. According to Mr. Scammer, the payments are needed to pay bribes, insurance or legal expenses, delivery costs, or any other fanciful excuse that he can come up with.

Mr. Scammer will continue to extract further payments from Mr. Gullible until he has no more funds to give or, belatedly, realizes that he is being conned. Along the way, Mr. Gullible may have inadvertently submitted a wealth of personal information such as financial, address and employment details, and "verified" his identity by providing a social security number, his driver's license number and more. Thus, Mr. Scammer may collect enough information to steal Mr. Gullible's identity or sell it to a fellow scumbag.

Scam email cover stories about hordes of cash found by soldiers in Iraq may seem believable to some potential victims because such finds have actually occurred and have been widely reported in the media. In fact, some versions of the scam include links to genuine articles about such finds and even use the names of real soldiers in an attempt to add credibility to the scammer's spurious claims.

Sadly, Nigerian scams like this continue to claim victims all around the world. Advance fee scammers use a huge variety of stories to further their nefarious ends. Any email, fax, or surface mail message that claims you can receive a percentage of a large sum of money in exchange for helping to move or process the funds is very likely to be part of an advance-fee scam.

For more information about advance-fee scams, see:
Nigerian Scams - 419 Scam Information



[TOP]



Plastics Cancer Link Email - Plastics In the Microwave or Car

Summary:
Email claims that freezing water or microwaving food in plastic containers or plastic wrap can lead to the consumption of cancer causing chemicals.

Status:
False

Update:
June 2007: A new variant of the hoax warning claims that drinking water from plastic water bottles that have been left in a car can cause breast cancer (details in commentary below).

Example:(Submitted, February 2005)
FW: Cancer News from John Hopkins

No plastics in micro

No water bottles in freezer.

No plastic wrap in micro

Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in their newsletters worth noting... This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Dioxin Carcinogens cause cancer, especially breast cancer. Don't freeze your plastic water bottles with water as this also releases dioxins in the plastic.

Dr. Edward Fujimoto from Castle hospital was on a TV program explaining this health hazard. (He is the manager of the Wellness Program at the hospital.)

He was talking about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers.

This applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxins into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Dioxins are carcinogens and highly toxic to the cells of our bodies. Instead, he recommends using glass, Corning Ware, or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, without the dioxins.

So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups, should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn't bad but you don't know what is in the paper. It's just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He said we might remember when some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons.

To add to this, Saran wrap placed over foods as they are nuked, with the high heat, actually drips poisonous toxins into the food, use paper towels.

Pass this on to your family & friends & those that are important in your life!


Commentary:
An earlier variant of this hoax referred only to the freezing of plastic water bottles. This later version has added on spurious information about using plastics in microwave ovens as well. Both versions contain false and misleading information.

Rolf Halden of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has expertly debunked the rumour linking plastic bottles to cancer. According to Halden the claim is an urban legend. He explains that:
Freezing actually works against the release of chemicals. Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic, and we don't think there are.
Experts also contradict the claim that using plastics in microwaves can cause dioxins to leech into the food. According to Edward Machuga, Ph.D, of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "The FDA has seen no evidence that plastic containers or films contain dioxins and knows of no reason why they would". The general consensus is that using plastic containers or plastic wrap in microwaves is not dangerous, so long as microwave safe plastics are used and manufacturers guidelines are followed. The FDA article does admit that substances in plastics can leach into food. However, the FDA does not consider this to be a significant risk to humans. The FDA article maintains that:
The agency has assessed migration levels of substances added to regulated plastics and has found the levels to be well within the margin of safety based on information available to the agency.
The email also claims that Saran Wrap "drips poisonous toxins" into the food when used in a microwave. SC Johnson, the makers of Saran® plastic wrap has strongly refuted this claim and has released the following statement.
S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. 1525 Howe Street
Racine, WI 53403-2236
262.260.2000
July 30, 2004
Statement Regarding Plastics in the Microwave Hoax

. In 2002, SC Johnson became aware of an e-mail that was being widely circulated, which warned consumers about the alleged dangers of using plastics in the microwave. This e-mail claimed that the combination of fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body, thereby increasing the risk of producing cancerous cells. SC Johnson has researched these claims and it is clear that the information is not only misleading, but also unnecessarily alarms consumers.

. When used in the microwave, there is no trace level migration of dioxins from any Saran™ or Ziploc® product. We know this because these products are 100% dioxin-free. You also should be aware that dioxins can only be formed when chlorine is combined with extremely high temperatures, such as the temperatures generated in waste incinerators. Those incinerators produce temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, an extreme temperature that even the most powerful consumer microwave ovens are unable to produce.

. Our Saran™ and Ziploc® products can be used with confidence when label directions are followed. All Saran™Wraps, Ziploc® Containers and microwaveable Ziploc® Bags meet the safety requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for temperatures associated with defrosting and reheating food in microwave ovens, as well as room, refrigerator, and freezer temperatures.

. For more information, please contact Kelly Semrau, Vice President, Public Affairs and Communication at 262-260-2102.
I have labelled this email forward as false for the following reasons:
Therefore, in my opinion, the information in this email forward should not be taken seriously. The misinformation contained in the email clearly identifies it as just one more among the many bogus warnings that continually circulate around cyberspace.

However, while the claims in this email forward are demonstrably untrue, alarmist and highly misleading, it is important to keep in mind that not all plastics are necessarily safe to use in microwave ovens. As stated earlier in the article, plastics are considered by experts to be safe to use in microwave ovens so long as microwave safe plastics are used and manufacturers guidelines are followed. However, some plastic containers - such as those that hold meals from fast-food outlets, or cold food receptacles such as margarine tubs - may not be suitable for microwave use. The American Plastics Council has information and resources about safely using plastics in the microwave oven on its website.

Update: June 2007:
During 2007, a new version of the warning message began circulating. According to this version, drinking water from a plastic bottle that has been left in a car can lead to breast cancer. Like the earlier version discussed above, the message claims that heat can result in cancer-causing chemicals leaking into the water. It also claims that singer Sheryl Crow contracted cancer in this way.

Sheryl Crow did appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in October 2006 to discuss her experience with breast cancer and share preventative tips with viewers. She also posted an article on her website in which she lists the following cancer prevention tips, among others:
Don't drink water from a bottle that has been sitting in your car. Heated plastic will bleed toxic substances that can be carcinogenic.

Don't heat or freeze in plastic for the same reason. Heat in glass.
According to the article, Sheryl was given this information by her nutritionist and was no doubt passing on the information to her fans in good faith. However, it seems that the nutritionist was simply perpetrating the same old totally unsubstantiated cancer myths that are discussed above. Again, there is no credible scientific evidence to back up the nutritionist's claims that heating or freezing plastic will leak toxins into the container's contents. Mayo Clinic dietitian Katherine Zeratsky also refutes the claims.

An example of the new variant is included below:
Subject: Bottled Water Kept in Car

I will stop this habit, because I do this all the time.

This is how Sheryl Crow got breast cancer she was on the Ellen show and She said this same exact thing. So please be very careful ladies.

.....a friend whose mother recently got diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor told her: women should not drink bottled water that has been left in a car. The doctor said that the heat and the plastic of the bottle have certain chemicals that can lead to breast cancer. So please be careful and do not drink that water bottle that has been left in a car and pass this on to all the women in your life. This information is the kind we need to know and be aware and just might save us!!!! The heat causes toxins from the plastic to leak into the water and they have found these toxins in breast tissue. Use a stainless steel Canteen or a glass bottle when you can!!!


These "warning" emails are not the only chain letters that makes bogus claims about the dangers of plastic containers. Another email forward falsely claims that simply reusing plastic bottles can lead to the ingestion of cancer causing chemical agents. In fact, there are a number of myths and rumours associated with the use of plastics. For more information about plastic related myths, visit plasticsmythbuster.org.

References:
Rolf U. Halden
Researcher Dispels Myth of Dioxins and Plastic Water Bottles
Don't Use Plastic for Heating Foods in a Microwave Oven Because of Exposure to Dioxins
Microwaving with Plastics
The Ellen DeGeneres Show: Sheryl Crow/Christina Applegate *Breast Cancer Awareness* Battling the Cancer (and how to) and Loving the Horses (an updated article)
Microwave Madness: The Dish on Dioxins
Dioxin Doubletalk
Microwaving with Plastics Mayo Clinic:Freezing or microwaving plastic: Does it release dioxins?
Plasticsmythbuster.org: Heard Something About Plastics? Get the Facts Here


[TOP]



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Hoax Slayer Premium Information


[TOP]



Praying Mother and Son Rock Formation

Summary:
Email message claims an attached image depicts a rock formation in Burma that resembles a mother and son praying by a lake.

Status:
False - The image is an illustration in s Korean children's book.

Example:(Submitted, August 2005)
Subject: FOTO FANTÁSTICA.

A mãe e o filho.

Esta é uma formação rochosa na beira de um lago na Birmânia. Esta foto só é possível em um determinado período do ano, devido à luminosidade pela inclinação do sol.

Para conseguir melhor efeito visual, incline a cabeça para a esquerda até ver o reflexo da imagem juntar-se à própria imagem. Agora, fala sério: é muito lindo, não??? Coisas da natureza......

Image of praying mother and son rock formation

Commentary:
This amazing image accompanies an email forward written in Portuguese. The message claims that the image depicts a rock formation on a lakeside in Burma. According to the message, the image depicts a praying mother and son and can be best viewed by tilting your head to the left.

Ayub, a Hoax-Slayer visitor, has been kind enough to translate the above message into English as follows:
This is a rock formation on the shores of a lake in Burma. It's only possible to view this image on a certain time of the year, due to the reflection of the angle of the sun. To view it better, tilt your head to your left as if you want to look at the image from a 90 Deg angle turned to the right and look at the reflection in the water joined together with the rock formation. Now, seriously isn't it pretty? Amazing nature.....
Another version circulates via an email with an attached Microsoft PowerPoint slide show that includes the following description in English:
This picture shows a rock on a sea in Birmania, it is only possible to see this once a year with a special angle of the sun and special light conditions. Bend you head to the left to see how spectacular it is.
The PowerPoint version shows horizontal and vertical views of the image and urges the recipient to "send this email to at least 10 persons".

The image has generated a lot of debate and speculation, with many people believing that it depicts a real rock formation. However, not surprisingly, the image is in fact a work of art and does not depict an actual landscape. The picture is a children's book illustration by renowned Korean artist Kim Jae-hong. The image and other similar illustrations in the sequence can be seen in photographs of the children's book displayed on a Korean blog post.

To download the Power Point version of the message to your computer, right-click the link below and select "Save target as". To view the presentation, Microsoft PowerPoint, the MS PowerPoint Viewer or another compatible program needs to be installed on your computer.

Download PowerPoint Version (279kb)


References:
Kim Jae-hong
Korean blog post (Google Translated from Korean to English)
Korean blog post (Original)

[TOP]

Mexican Drug Money Photos

Summary:
Series of photographs circulating via email and online show millions of dollars in cash seized during a drug raid in Mexico.

Status:
True

Example:(Submitted, June 2007)
Subject: Drug money......

207 Million seized in Mexico............Wonder what they did with all of it!

RAID ON DRUG DEALERS HOUSE

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?

How many BMW's could we buy?

DRUG BUST PICTURES

Mexican Drug Money Photo 1

Mexican Drug Money Photo 2

Mexican Drug Money Photo 3

Mexican Drug Money Photo 4

Mexican Drug Money Photo 5

Mexican Drug Money Photo 6

Commentary:
The text that accompanies this series of photographs claims that the images depict $207 million found during a police raid at a drug-dealers residence in Mexico. Although the vast amount of cash shown in the images may seem almost unbelievable, the photographs are genuine. According to a March 2007 press release on the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) website, the horde of cash was indeed seized in Mexico:
MAR 20 -- $207 million is the largest single drug cash seizure the world has ever seen. This is like law enforcement hitting the ultimate jackpot. But luck had nothing to do with this windfall. This record-setting feat was the result of tremendous police work by Mexican law enforcement in collaboration with DEA throughout the past year.

This money was seized from chemical brokers that were supplying chemicals to Mexican cartels to manufacture huge quantities of methamphetamine—most destined for the United States. The citizens of Mexico and America should be encouraged because seizing this criminal organization’s revenue not only operationally and financially disrupts that organization but also cuts off the supply of a vital ingredient needed to make methamphetamine.

Read complete DEA press release

According to an International Herald Tribune article, 205.6 million of the stash was in U.S. dollars with the remainder in euros and pesos. The raid centred on a residence in Lomas de Chapultepec, a wealthy neighbourhood in Mexico City. As well as the cash, law enforcement agents also seized guns, luxury vehicles and drug making equipment.

References:
Two Hundred and Seven Million in Drug Money Seized in Mexico City
Mexico: World's largest drug cash seizure is larger than originally announced


[TOP]

FBI Fraud Alert Lottery Scam

Summary:
Email purporting to be from the FBI claims that a previous Microsoft lottery notification sent to the recipient has been checked and found to be genuine.

Status:
False

Example:(Submitted, June 2007)
Subject: FBI UK Internet Fraud Watch/Alert

OFFICER IN-CHARGE:
NAME: Mr. Brad Todd @
FBI UK Internet Fraud Watch/Alert
Phone: +44 701113 0369
E-mail: fbifraudalert_london@yahoo.co.uk
ATTENTION: Microsoft Winner,

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Has discovered through our intelligence Monitoring Network, that you have an on going transaction with the Microsoft Int. Mega Jackpot Lottery UK, as the Beneficiary of the said 5,500,000 Great British Pounds sterling. (Five Million, Five hundred thousand pounds sterling) confirmed on a certified Cashier's check.

So the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) Washington DC, in conjunction with the Scotland Yard, Has screened through our various Monitoring Networks and has been confirmed and notified that the transaction you have with the Microsoft is Legal and you have the Lawful Right to claim your due Prize of 5.5, million pounds. We advise you to go ahead with them as we are monitoring all their services and network. Be advised that any letter or lottery Notification received from anybody or company should be forwarded to us with immediate effect. The UK Government has spent over $1.7 million pounds to make sure these scammers are brought before the law. They are still ready to spend more to make sure they are brought before the law.

Meanwhile, you are advised to follow the procedure of the Lottery House (Microsoft). They have their own legal procedure which we have examined and confirmed legal. Follow their instructions while you keep us updated for more details. You are advised to contact the necessary office for more details of Transfer as we are monitoring every move now.

Please, be advised and be aware that your funds had been insured and the necessary charges would be taken care of by you, as confirmed by the Monitoring network. For your own good you are advised to confirm any lottery promo you have either involved your self with in the past to enable us trace this scammers. Only this lottery Promotion has been confirmed Legal any other are still under investigation, and so many others are scam, most especially from the UK and Europe.

You are to contact Mr Brad Todd with the email below in regards to more information on your claims.

OFFICER IN-CHARGE:
NAME: Mr. Brad Todd @
FBI UK Internet Fraud Watch/Alert
Phone: +44 701113 0369
E-mail: fbifraudalert_london@yahoo.co.uk


Commentary:
According to this email, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been monitoring an ongoing transaction between the recipient and agents of the Microsoft Mega Jackpot Lottery. The recipient previously received a lottery notification email, supposedly from Microsoft, claiming that he or she had won a large some of money. The subsequent FBI message claims that the supposed lottery has been officially screened and found to be legal and that the recipient has a lawful right to claim the prize.

However, both the original claim that the recipient has won the lottery and the follow-up claim that the FBI has verified the transaction are entirely bogus. They are both part of a typical lottery scam designed to trick victims into paying fees and revealing sensitive personal information, ostensibly to facilitate the release of the entirely fictional "winnings".

Scammers often claim that their fake lotteries are managed or endorsed by Microsoft. However, such claims are completely untrue. Microsoft does not organize, promote, fund, or in any way endorse email-based lotteries or prize giveaways.

According to the message, the FBI has been checking various lottery transactions for possible fraud via its "intelligence Monitoring Network", but has found that the particular Microsoft lottery being discussed is genuine although similar promotions may be fraudulent. Thus, the scammers have attempted to alleviate any suspicions held by the recipient of the original lottery notification email by sending a follow-up email claiming that the FBI has verified the transaction as genuine.

Of course, this trick is quite transparently fraudulent, as a brief examination of the scam message reveals. It is vastly improbable that the real FBI would send a private citizen an unsolicited email verifying a particular transaction involving a lottery win. Moreover, if a US based agency such as the FBI did write such an email, it would not be sent from a free Yahoo web mail account based in the United Kingdom. The strange phrasing and poor grammar also indicate that the message is quite unlikely to be an official government notification.

The message also implies that the FBI routinely monitors the private messages of its citizens and was therefore able to verify the claims in the original lottery notification email without being explicitly requested to do so. While such clandestine and widespread surveillance of private citizens might not surprise more cynical observers, the full and open disclosure of such surveillance would be most surprising indeed.

As Internet users become increasingly aware of how lottery scams operate, scammers are likely to employ more clever tactics such as this FBI "fraud-checking" ruse to achieve their aims. In spite of these tactics, however, with a little foreknowledge, such scams are not difficult to recognize. Any email message that claims you have won money or prizes in a lottery promotion that you never even entered is almost certainly a scam, regardless of apparent endorsement by any high profile company or claims that any law enforcement agency has verified the supposed transaction.

For more information about lottery scams, see:
Email Lottery Scams - International Lottery Scam Information

References:
Microsoft World Lottery Scam
Email Lottery Scams - International Lottery Scam Information


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Paris Hilton Stabbed in Jail Hoax

Summary:
Reports claims that jailed heiress Paris Hilton was stabbed multiple times by another prisoner.

Status:
False

Example:
LOS ANGELES, CA Paris Hilton who not more than four hours earlier was physically removed from a courtroom, has been stabbed multiple times.

Although no official statement has been released, unnamed sources from within the Lynwood medical ward tell CNN that Paris received two wounds to the chest, one to the back, one to the throat and three to the abdomen. Although her condition has been stabilized, surgeons are pessimistic about a full recovery. Their main concern being that the puncture to her back may have severely damaged her spinal cord.


Commentary:
Messages that claim that Paris Hilton has been stabbed while in prison are currently circulating online and via email. According to the messages, Hilton was stabbed multiple times by another inmate who became angry after being yelled at by the celebrity heiress.

However, the claims in the message are untrue. Paris Hilton is being held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles County but has not be stabbed or injured. The rumours began circulating after a fake news report, designed to resemble a genuine CNN.com news article was published by prankster Michael Burke.

Burke has since owned up to the prank and states on his MySpace page:
On Friday after hearing the Paris Hilton news in regards to her going to jail, I decided to make this fake website to express my feelings about it being front page material:

The fake CNN site

According to Burke, the fake article recorded almost a million page views in the three days after it was published and has generated enquiries from all around the world. Staff at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department have also received many calls about the hoax report.

Another fake news website falsely claims that Paris Hilton committed suicide while in prison. In this case, the fake article has been designed to look like a real Australian ABC web page.

High profile celebrities are often the targets of hoaxes tricked up to look like genuine news articles.

References:
Paris jail stabbing hoax
Fake CNN Report: Paris Hilton Stabbed Multiple Times
Paris Hilton getting shanked: not as funny as I thought
ABC victim of Paris hoax

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Hand Sanitizer Alert Email

Summary:
Email forward claims that a four-year-old child became dangerously drunk and required hospitalization after licking Hand Sanitizer from her hands.

Status:
True

Example:(Submitted, May 2007)
FW: Hand Sanitizer Alert

Yesterday, my youngest daughter, Halle, who is 4, was rushed to the emergency room by her father for being severely lethargic and incoherent. He was called to her school by the school secretary for being "very VERY sick."

He told me that when he arrived, Halle was barely sitting in the chair. She couldn't hold her own head up and when he looked into her eyes, she couldn't focus them. He immediately scooped her up and rushed her to the ER, and then called me.

When we got there, they ran blood test after blood test and did x-rays, every test imaginable. Her white blood cell count was normal, nothing was out of the ordinary. The ER doctor told us that he had done everything that he could do so he was sending her to Saint Francis for further tests.

Right when we were leaving in the ambulance, her teacher came to the ER and, after questioning Halle's classmates, we found out that she had licked hand sanitizer off her hand.

Hand sanitizer, of all things.

But it makes sense. These days they have all kinds of different scents and when you have a curious child, they are going to put all kinds of things into their mouths.

When we arrived at Saint Francis, we told the ER doctor there to check her blood alcohol level, and yes we did get weird looks, but they did it.

The results showed her blood alcohol level was 85% -- six hours after we first took her. There's no telling what it would have been if we would have requested it at the first ER.

Since then, her school and a few surrounding schools have taken this out of the classrooms of all the lower grade classes, but what's to stop middle and high schoolers from ingesting the stuff?

After doing research on the internet, we have found out that it only takes 3 squirts of the stuff to be fatal in a toddler. For her blood alcohol level to be so high was to compare someone her size to drinking something 120 proof. So please PLEASE don't disregard this because I don't ever want anyone else to go through what my family and I have gone through.

Please send this to everyone you know who has children or are going to be having children. It doesn't matter what age.


Commentary:
This email forward warns of the danger to children posed by consuming alcohol-based hand sanitizer and cites the case of a four-year-old girl who became very ill after licking sanitizer off her hands.

The information in the message is basically true*. According to a May 14 2007 Fox23 News report, four-year-old Halle Butler of Okmulgee, Oklahoma became very ill after eating hand sanitizer. Halle's pre-kindergarten teacher applied hand sanitizer to the child's hands before she ate lunch. However, Halle apparently licked the sanitizer off her hands rather than rubbing it in. The child soon became ill and was rushed to hospital where she showed signs of intense intoxication. Typical hand sanitizer contains 62-percent alcohol, significantly more than most hard liquor. Even a small amount would therefore be enough to make a small child drunk or ill. Thankfully, the child recovered after the alcohol left her system and is now doing well.

In the wake of this incident, Halle's parents are trying to raise awareness of the potential danger of hand sanitizers in the hope that similar events can be prevented. The school where the incident occurred has now stopped using hand sanitizers.

Halle's is not the only case of hand sanitizer poisoning reported. In another incident in San Diego, a teacher became ill after a 7th grade student spiked his drink with hand sanitizer. In other cases adults, including a prison inmate, have become ill after deliberately drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk.

Parents and those who work with children or other "at-risk" groups such as prison inmates should be vigilant when hand sanitizers are being used. Children should be strictly supervised when using such products. As the email notes, young children are apt to taste substances that older children and adults would never consider eating.

However, while the danger is real, hand sanitizers are not inherently dangerous if they are used as directed by their manufacturers. Also, it should be noted that, when used correctly, hand sanitizers can effectively reduce the spread of gastrointestinal and other illnesses. Therefore, as long as young children are carefully monitored when using hand sanitizers, their use in schools may be beneficial to students and the wider community as a whole.

* Note: The claim in the message that the child's blood alcohol level was 85% is obviously incorrect - levels of more than 0.45% are almost always fatal - but this is likely to be simply an error and may have been intended to read ".085%".

References:
Hand sanitizer makes girl drunk
Teacher's drink spiked with sanitizer; seventh-grader arrested
Warning: Don't drink the hand sanitizer
Using Hand Sanitizer Stops Germs from Spreading


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Use Email Auto-Replies With Caution

If you are going to be away from your computer, you can set up your email program to automatically reply to incoming emails with a message explaining that you are absent. These "Out-Of-Office" or "Vacation" replies can be a good way to let customers and friends know that you have received their message but will not be able to answer immediately.

However, some caution is required when configuring your automatic replies: Thus, wherever possible, you should place controls on who gets your auto reply emails and make sure that each recipient only receives one reply. For personal vacation messages you could ensure that replies are only sent to specified addresses such as those listed in your personal address book. For business "Out-Of-Office" messages, you could make sure that replies are not sent to messages diverted to your "Spam" folder. Email filters can be setup in such a way that replies are only sent to messages matching particular criteria.

There is a number of good auto-reply managers available that can work in conjunction with your email program and help you deal with the above issues. Reviews of several such programs are included on About.com and a Google search will reveal many more.



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Eagle Lifting Fox Photograph

Summary:
Photograph shows an eagle lifting a fox from near a carcass partially buried in snow.

Status:
True

Example:(Submitted, June 2007)
Awesome! Eagle v. fox

Eagle and fox photograph taken in Montana

Eagle Lifting Fox

Photo credit: Pekka Komi 2006


Commentary:
This amazing photograph shows a Golden Eagle lifting a fox away from the body of a partly eaten animal in the snow. The photograph has been posted on numerous blogs and forums and is also circulating via email.

Although some have postulated that the photograph has been manipulated, it is in fact genuine. It is one of a series of shots snapped by Finnish photographer Pekka Komi.

With only one shot in the sequence included in the message, a viewer might conclude that the eagle actually carried away the fox, perhaps to make a meal of it. However, viewed in sequence, it is clear that the eagle and the fox are in fact competing for access to the carcass. The last shot in the sequence shows that the fox has escaped the clutches of the eagle.

Also, the picture was taken in South Finland, not Montana as claimed in the message.

References:
Wikipedia: Golden Eagle
Pekka Komi: Golden Eagle
Birdchick Blog: More on Golden Eagle vs. Fox


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