Issue 75 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter
Issue 75: September, 2007
This month in Hoax-Slayer:
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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Shark Behind Scuba Divers Photo Hoax
Email claims that an attached image showing a large shark very close behind a scuba-diving couple is a real photograph taken during a family holiday in Australia.
(Submitted, August 2007)
Subject: Read before you look at the pic
Family on holiday in Australia for a week and a half when husband, wife and
their 15 year old son decided to go scooba diving. The husband is in the
navy and has had some scooba experience.
His son wanted a pic of his mum and dad in all their gear so got the under
water camera on the go. When it came to taking the pic the dad realized
that the son look like he was panicking as he took it and
gave the "OK" hand sign to see if he was alright.
The son took the pic and swam to the surface and back to the boat as quick
as he could so the mum and dad followed to see if he was OK. When they got
back to him he was scrambling onto the boat and absolutely packing it.
When the parents asked why he said "there was a shark behind you" and the
dad thought he was joking but the skipper of the boat said it was true and
that they wouldn't believe him even if he told them what it was. As soon as
they got back to the hotel they put the pic onto the laptop and this is
what they saw.
(Try and tell me you wouldn't have emptied your entire digestive system right at the point you saw it)
Would you have stayed to take the picture??
This striking image of a scuba diving couple being approached from behind by a very large shark is currently circulating via email. According to the message that comes with the picture, it was snapped by the couple's son during a family holiday in Australia. The relaxed demeanor of the divers adds to the visual impact of the picture since they are seemingly unaware of impending danger. What's more, the shark almost seems to be smiling, perhaps as it contemplates the tasty meal just ahead.
The message claims that both the pictured couple and the panicked youngster who snapped the photograph luckily made it back to the boat without becoming Great White Lunch. And it wasn't until they later viewed the photograph that the couple realized how close was their escape.
However, these claims are completely false and were apparently made up simply to provide a compelling background story to suit the image. Moreover, the image itself is not a genuine photograph, but a composite picture created by manipulating two or more other images. Research indicates that, in fact, the image was an entry in a Worth1000 PhotoShop contest titled Vacation Bloopers 6
. The entry was created by Worth1000 user "MataleoneRJ" and was titled My first diving in the vacations
The deception becomes clear when one views the original, and unaltered, shark photograph (shown below). The Photoshop artist has cleverly merged an unrelated photograph of a diving couple with the shark photograph so that it appears that the shark is swimming just behind them. The placement of the divers in the manipulated image makes the shark appear to be much larger than it really is.
This shark image can be viewed on the Great White Adventures website.
Photoshop contest entries regularly escape the confines of the contest website and begin circulating via email and online, often accompanied by a fanciful tale invented by some unknown prankster. Within the context of the original contest website, the status of these manipulated images is quite clear and no deception is intended. However, once they stray outside of this context, these manipulated images are quite often good enough to fool many recipients into believing that they are genuine photographs.
My first diving in the vacations
Vacation Bloopers 6
Great White Adventures - White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
Square Watermelons In Japan
Email with attached photographs of square watermelons claims that Japanese farmers are growing the fruit in glass cases to save space on refrigerator shelves.
True, but not new
(Submitted, August 2007)
Subject: Square Watermelons
A round watermelon can take up a lot of room in a refrigerater and the usually round fruit often sits awkwardly on refrigerator shelves.?
Smart Japanese Farmers have forced their watermelons to grow into a square shape by inserting the melons into square, tempered glass cases while the fruit is still growing on the vine.
According to this email forward, attached photographs depict unusual square watermelons that are grown by farmers in Japan. The message claims that the square watermelons are created by inserting them into cube-shaped glass containers while they are still growing. Square watermelons, claims the message, will fit more easily on shelves and therefore save refrigerator space.
Given the amount of manipulated images that circulate via email, it is perhaps not surprising that some recipients have questioned the veracity of these square watermelon photographs. However, the images are genuine and have not been manipulated.
In fact, square watermelons have been grown in Japan for a number of years. According to a BBC news article
published in June 2001, a Zentsuji farmer came up with the innovative idea for a space-saving square watermelon some twenty years earlier. Since then, the square fruit has been sold in various selected outlets across Japan, but they are prohibitively expensive to buy and their potential market is therefore quite limited. The BBC article noted:
Today the cuboid watermelons are hand-picked and shipped all over Japan.
But the fruit, on sale in a selection of department stores and upmarket supermarkets, appeals mainly to the wealthy and fashion-conscious of Tokyo and Osaka, Japan's two major cities.
Each melon sells for 10,000 yen, equivalent to about $83. It is almost double, or even triple, that of a normal watermelon.
"I can't buy it, it is too expensive," said a woman browsing at a department store in the southern city of Takamatsu.
According to another 2001 news article
about the square fruit, it was doubtful that there would be much of a potential market for them in the US. However, in 2006, British supermarket chain, Tesco announced plans to sell square watermelons in the UK at much more affordable prices than those sold in Japan. An August 2006 Food Business Review article
noted that the square fruit was being produced in Brazil especially for Tesco and was grown using wooden boxes rather than glass containers.
Garden hobbyists have also dabbled in square fruit production. A North Carolina resident has even grown square tomatoes
after hearing about the square watermelons grown in Japan. And an August 2007 Lansing State Journal
article offered gardeners instructions for growing square watermelons using cinder blocks.
Square fruit stuns Japanese shoppers
Japan corners the market on square fruit
Tesco to sell square-shaped melons
Want to see a square tomato?
Grow a square watermelon
Dating Fraud Spam Emails
As I discussed in another article
, scammers have been quick to capitalize on the growing popularity of Internet dating. Quite often, scammers make contact with potential victims via Internet dating services. However, in other cases, they use a less targeted approach by randomly distributing vast numbers of "bait" emails in the hope of hooking just a few gullible recipients.
A common variant of these spam emails is a brief message in which the "nice girl" purporting to be the sender promises to send pictures if her recipient will reply to a specified email address. I have received dozens of these emails over the last few weeks, both directly from scammers and as submissions from site visitors. An example of one of the messages is included below:
Subject: Can we talk?
Hello! I am bored tonight. I am nice girl that would like to chat
with you. Email me at [address removed] only, because I am
writing not from my personal email.
Will send some of my pictures
To some, more naive recipients, the messages may seem genuine since, unlike most spam email, they do not contain a link to a website and do not appear to be selling or promoting anything. However, as with typical advance fee and lottery scams, the messages are simply ruses designed to entice potential victims into making contact with the scammer.
I responded to one of these scam emails (using a disposable email address) and received the following reply:
From Marina Pretty
Hi my new friend
Im glad to see that you have decided to reply,I see it is very short letter.
It is all right because you are astonished to get my letter.
I want you to know that I have only good intentions and I have not any secrets.
The thing is that I will work in your country for three months or so and
I would like to meet a nice man to fall in love or just be closest friends.
I don't want to live in Russia because I have not any chances here,
it is hardly possible to explain from first time but I want you to know my plans.
I will work in any shop, bar or restaurant the agency that i am going through will suggest me some locations.
It will be my choice in the end as to what option to go for.
So I will have a simple work till I improve my English. And I can choose any
town of your area,agency will only help me to get a visa and all travel documents + some suggested placed to work in.
My best friend last year met the man from the USA when she worked there for three months, too.
She had two jobs. From morning till 4 pm she worked in amusement park and after it she worked as a waitress in some bar till midnight.
She was very tired of course but made very good money there.It is special programm for young people who wants to work abroad and I think it is the right way for me , I am lost here,and I think that I look pretty enough to find a better place .I want to repeat the same way,it is only my chance to meet a nice man.I want to work in USA or in Europe or any
nice country. I am full of plans and different dreams and I want to share my
life with good man because I'm also full of love and tenderness,I know that
I am not so beautiful like Hollywood Princess but I do hope to meet my Prince and
I am sure he will be not be disappoined to meet me in the real life! This is why I am going to go through the same way.
Well,I will close this letter and I do hope to get your reply.
I will leave russia in two weeks or so (I can't tell you everything exactly
right now) and I would like to be sure that I have the man who waits for me there. I will work all day and I want to find a man to spend all free time
together to get to know each other better.if you have any interest to meet me I will be more than happy to meet you too.
I will tell you all details about me and my life if you like my pictures and
want to meet me! please send picture of you too!!!
I write to you with my new mailbox [address removed], please write
letters now only on this mailbox.
I will wait your next letter.
Kiss you , Marina (this is my name)!
PS here are my pics
I hope they to you will like.
I hope you to me will answer
"Marina" manages to portray herself as rather sweet and innocent, and gullible would-be lovers are likely to reply again, no doubt further swayed by the attached photographs of an undeniably pretty young lady. However, once "Marina" has gradually earned the trust of her victim, she will soon begin asking for money. Since she has already set the groundwork in her initial reply, her first request may be for enough money to cover airfares so that she can come and visit. Alternatively, she may ask for financial help due to a family medical emergency or any number of other bogus excuses.
Of course, "Marina" has no intention of pursuing a relationship with her victim, nor will she ever come to visit him. Her only motive is to separate her love-struck victim from as much of his money as possible and, perhaps, harvest enough of his personal information to steal his identity.
"Marina" goes by a number of other names, including Anna Golovachewa
, Tatyana Gorbunowa
, and Julia Fedorova
. Regardless of the particular alias she is using, the initial scam emails are likely to be quite similar
and her fraudulent intentions are the same. In reality, the criminal responsible for these messages is quite unlikely to be the person in the photographs. These scammers have a sizable pool of photographs
that they regularly recycle for use in scam messages. In some cases, they simply invent a name to go with a photograph of a model or celebrity that they have scanned from a magazine or downloaded from the Internet.
Internet dating is a perfectly legitimate means of forming relationships. However, it is important that users only go through reputable and secure dating agencies that protect the privacy of their clients. Moreover, caution and common sense is required when dealing with any unsolicited email that asks for friendship or further contact. Anyone who is genuinely seeking a relationship is quite unlikely to randomly email total strangers asking for contact. As with other kinds of scam emails, it is best to delete these messages without replying.
As mentioned above, I contacted one of these scammers as part of my research. Scam "baiting" can be a useful way to find out more information about these criminals and how they operate. However, caution is required when using these tactics and baiters should take careful steps to protect their identity. For more information on this issue, see:
Scam Baiting - Caution Required
Internet Dating Scams
Dating scammer Tatyana Smirnova from Molodezhnyi, Russia
Russian Scam Photos
Wal-Mart Cell Phone Camera Check Scam Warning
Supposedly official internal memo to employees of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections warns about a widespread scam in Wal-Mart stores in which employees defraud customers by using a cell phone camera to create fake checks.
Unsubstantiated - Warning was not sanctioned by the DPS
(Submitted, August 2007)
Subject: Fw: DPSC WalMart Warning Letter.pdf
I know a lot of us shop at Walmart, so I thought you should read this.
This is happening in Baton Rouge and I'll bet in Houston, too.
(See attached file: DPSC WalMart Warning Letter.pdf)
[Transcript of PDF text:
Department of Public Safety and Corrections
Public Safety Services
July 26, 2007
To All Employees:
DO NOT write checks at any Wal-Mart. There is a multi-city fraud and theft ring currently operating in Wal-Mart involving numerous employees. When you pay by check the clerk takes a picture of your check using the camera on their cell phone. This information is then downloaded, fraudulent checks made from your account, and then "let the fun begin" for the thieves. One individual that this was done to had two checks totaling over $4000.00 posted against their checking account.
Some of you are thinking "well there is no way this will affect me because I don't keep that kind of money in my account." WRONG!!!! As stated, this involves numerous employees. The picture is taken and after the data is downloaded the checks are printed. Later, this fake check is given to same or another cashier. The cashier DOES NOT run the check through the check fax inquiry to verify the funds. The check is placed in the drawer for deposit and no one is the wiser until some days later when the check hits your account. One of the main things being purchased by the fraudulent checks are gift cards. How nice. With a gift card from Wal-Mart, any member of the theft ring can purchase items from any Wal-Mart or Sam's Club in the nation. No identification is required to purchase with a gift card, so Sally or Sam in Shreveport can be buying that fabulous plasma TV they have always wanted with the gift card bought by a fraudulent check drawn on YOUR account and no one is any the wise until you get your bank statement or you begin to get NSF notices in the mail.
This activity has become so widespread and so numerous have been the occurrences that not only is local law enforcement authorities involved in the case, i.e. City, Sheriff, and LSP, but the FBI and the Secret Service is now investigation as well.
So, you have been warned. Protect yourself and your money. It's 2007 and the criminals only seem to get smarter.
Screen shot of PDF warning
This message, which is rapidly circulating via email as a PDF attachment, warns that a widespread check scam involving Wal-Mart employees has been uncovered. The message claims that Wal-Mart clerks in several US cities are using cell-phone cameras to capture an image of checks submitted by customers. According to the message, bogus checks that draw on the customer's account are subsequently created from the captured image and then used to purchase items such as gift cards.
The PDF document is a scan of a supposedly official internal letter to employees of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections that includes the department's logo, letterhead and footer. However, a statement published by the Louisiana State Police
reveals that the letter is, in fact, unofficial and unauthorized:
Unauthorized Letter Improperly Warns of Alleged Wal-Mart Fraud Ring
On Thursday, July 26, 2007, an unauthorized letter was distributed to employees in the Baton Rouge field office of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles, concerning an alleged multi-city fraud and theft ring operating at Wal-Mart involving Wal-Mart employees. It was alleged in the letter that the employees of the store would obtain a customer's checking account information, and the information would be used to create fraudulent checks.
This letter was not official or sanctioned in any way by the Department of Public Safety; unfortunately this letter was made public. The Department will be conducting an internal investigation and, at the conclusion of the investigation, will take the appropriate corrective and/or disciplinary action.
Members of the public should not rely on information contained in the letter. As always, consumers are cautioned to take steps to limit disclosure of their personal information and to be aware of their surroundings.
The Department of Public Safety and Corrections regrets any inconvenience to Wal-Mart Corporation, its employees, or members of the public who may have learned of the letter in question.
Even without this denial, the emotive and informal writing style of the message, and the lack of concrete details and references suggests that it is quite unlikely to be an official DPS publication, but rather the work of an individual department employee. It inclusion on official Department of Public Safety and Corrections stationary has afforded the message a degree of undeserved credibility.
While it has been established that the message is not
an official police department scam warning, it is nevertheless unclear if the specific claims in the warning are just fabrications or do actually contain elements of truth. Fraudulent activities like the ones described in the warning are not entirely implausible. Cell phone cameras have become more sophisticated, and it cannot be ruled out that a clever group of criminals might manage to carry out scams like the one described. However, I could find no evidence to suggest that such crimes have actually occurred. If the crimes were really as widespread and as common as claimed in the message, then they would certainly have been widely reported in the media. According to the message, such crimes have become so common that a range of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Secret Service, are now involved. However, given the lack of any official statements or warnings by such agencies, it seems clear that this claim is unfounded.
Other warnings about the potential use of cell-phone cameras to steal credit card numbers
from unwary shoppers have circulated for several years. Again, however, there is little evidence to indicate that the tactic is actually being regularly used by identity thieves.
Of course, like any large company, Wal-Mart has had its fair share of unscrupulous employees including some who have engaged in check fraud. In 2006, a Wal-Mart employee was arrested for such a check scam. An article on abc13.com
A former Wal-Mart employee is behind bars for her role in what authorities are calling a check fraud scheme.
When you write a check at Wal-Mart, you hand it to a clerk who then runs the check through an electronic scanner and hands it back to you. Unfortunately some Wal-Mart shoppers in Spring did not get their checks handed back to them and it cost them thousands of dollars.
Pam Davis never thought writing a $37 check at Wal-Mart would cost her thousands of dollars, but that's exactly what happened.
She said, "I had gone to Wal Mart and written a check for $37 and did not realize I did not get that check back, which is the custom with electronic transfer. You are supposed to receive the check back."
However, this scam did not include the use of cellphone cameras, nor was the scam repeated by different Wal-Mart employees in different cities.
Thus, this message is not the legitimate police warning that it appears to be and its claim that cell phone check fraud by Wal-Mart employees is common and widespread is unfounded.
That said, criminals are constantly finding new ways to defraud us and are likely to use any technology that helps them achieve their aims. Shoppers need to remain on the look out for attempted fraud whenever they conduct transactions. Keep a close eye on how staff-members handle your checks and credit cards. Beware of other customers who may try to harvest personal information by peering over your shoulder as you pay for items. And make yourself aware of the ever-increasing threat of identity theft
Unauthorized DPS Letter
Are Phone Cameras being used to Steal Credit Card Information?
Former Wal-Mart employee arrested for check fraud scheme in Spring
Deter. Detect. Defend. Avoid ID Theft
Giant Skeleton Hoax Update
Emails with attached images supposedly depicting the skeletal remains of gigantic humans claim that the skeletons were unearthed in the Arabian or Indian deserts.
(Submitted, July 2004)
Subject: [Fwd: Interesting discovery]
FYI. Just got this Email, only God knows better about this story,
but check it out:
Recent gas exploration activity in the south east region of the
Arabian desert uncovered a skeletal remains of a human of
phenomenal size. This region of the Arabian desert is called the
Empty Quarter, or in Arabic, 'Rab-Ul-Khalee'. The discovery was
made by the Aramco Exploration team. As God states in the Quran
that He had created people of phenomenal size the like of which
He has not created since. These were the people of Aad where
Prophet Hud was sent. They were very tall, big, and very powerful,
such that they could put their arms around a tree trunk and uproot
it. Later these people, who were given all the power, turned
against God and the Prophet and transgressed beyond all boundaries
set by God. As a result they were destroyed.
Ulema's of Saudi Arabia believe these to be the remains of the
people of Aad. Saudi Military has secured the whole area and no
one is allowed to enter except the ARAMCO personnel. It has been
kept in secrecy, but a military helicopter took some pictures
from the air and one of the pictures leaked out into the internet
in Saudi Arabia. See the attachment and note the size of the two
men standing in the picture in comparison to the size of the
(Submitted, July 2007)
Subject: FW: Legendary skeleton
Recent exploration activity in the northern region of India uncovered a skeletal remains of a human of phenomenal size. This region of the Indian desert is called the Empty Quarter.
The exploration team also found tablets with inscriptions that stated that our Gods of Indian mythologicalyore, Brahma, had created people of phenomenal size the like of which He has not created since. They were very tall, big, and very powerful, such that they could put their arms around a tree trunk and uproot it.
They were created to bring order among us since we were always fighting with each other. One of he sons of Bhima of the Pandava brothers is also thought of to have been carrying these genes. Later these people, who were given all the power turned against all our Gods and transgressed beyond all boundaries set. As a result they were destroyed by God Shiva.
The Geo Exploration team believes these to be the remains of those people.
Govt of India has secured the whole area and no one is, allowed to enter except the NatGeo personnel.
This classic leg-pull has now been circulating via email, blogs and forums for several years and has even been published by some news outlets as factual. In fact, the "giant skeleton" images that travel with these messages are not photographs depicting real discoveries but instead clever manipulations. A lot of recipients would be quick to doubt the authenticity of the images. However, submissions indicate that the high quality of the fake images coupled with the vaguely plausible explanations that accompany them are apparently enough to convince many recipients that the "discoveries" are genuine.
So far, there have been two popular variants of the hoax. The first variant (Example 1 above) claims that a skeleton of a gigantic human was discovered during a gas exploration in the south east region of the Arabian desert and sports an attached photograph to "prove" the claim. However, the cleverly created image of the giant skeleton is actually an entry
image manipulation contest
by artist "IronKite" in which participants were instructed to create "a picture of an archaeological discovery that looks
so real, had it not appeared at Worth1000, people might have done a double take".
The message tries to add legitimacy to its fanciful tale by referencing the Quran's
and the people of Aad (or "Ad"). Some Islamic references do
claim that the people of Aad were thought to be giants
. However, other material
describes them as having a "stature tall among the nations" or as simply being "physically well-built". The Christian Bible also makes mention
The second variant (Example 2 above) moves the "action" to the Indian desert and replaces the Islamic references with mentions of characters in Indian mythology, including Brahma
and Bhima's son. According to Indian legend, Bhima's son Ghatotkacha
was a powerful fighter with magical abilities, although he is not generally described as a giant. Other than the change in mythological references, much of the wording in the two hoax variants is virtually identical.
The Indian based variant includes IronKite's image along with three other giant skeleton pictures that also originate from the same Worth1000 contest. The second picture in the set, complete with giant revolver, is titled everlasting rest
and was created by amaranto
. The third image is an entry simply named Giant Skeleton
and was created by Anakinnnn
. And the fourth image in the set is named Uncovered Giant
and was created by Trit
The hoax was apparently republished
by several media outlets in Indian, Bangladesh and elsewhere. A scan of one of these newspaper articles is included in one version of the hoax email. Such articles have given the hoax undeserved credibility.
IronKite's creation has even been featured in a YouTube video
entitled "Proof evolution is an evil lie from satan (the devil)". The video's creator uses IronKite's giant skeleton, along with other dubious images, as "proof" that giants once lived on Earth. The inclusion of a well-documented hoax image, in addition to a number of logical flaws, seriously undermines the video maker's credibility and has earned him the ridicule
of his fellow YouTubers.
The image and "Arabian desert discovery" description is also included in another fanciful YouTube video
warning of impending disaster for Earth. Again, the blatant use of a well-known hoax as "proof" decimates what little credibility the video had to begin with.
Even if you do believe that a race of giants once walked the Earth, you can rest assured that these photographs do not
depict some of their remains. In their original context as part of a Worth1000 contest, the status of the images as purely fictional "archaeological discoveries" is quite clear. Apparently, however, some unknown prankster stole IronKite's image from its original setting, added some seemingly relevant text, and sent it on its way. Perhaps due largely to the talent of its creator, the image has circulated ever since. In due course, others have apparently added more Worth1000 images to the hoax messages.
Worth1000: Archaeological Anomalies
Dictionary of Islam : Letter G
Giants in the Bible
Solving the mystery of the Giant Skeleton
Bum_tnoo7 Hacker Warning Hoax
Message warns that the address firstname.lastname@example.org is a hacker and simply adding it to your contact list can result in your computer being hacked.
(Submitted, August 2007)
if somebody called email@example.com adds you don't accept it because its a hacker. Tell everyone on your list because if somebody on your list adds them you get them on your list he'll figure out Your ID, computer address, so copy and paste this message to everyone even if you hate them and fast cause if he hacks their email he hacks your mail
According to this message "firstname.lastname@example.org" is the address of a hacker and simply accepting the address into your IM contact list can allow the hacker access to your computer. The warning has been rapidly circulating around social networking communities such as Facebook and MySpace and is also travelling via instant messages and email.
This warning is invalid and should not be taken seriously. The message is, in fact, a slightly different version of the long running MSN contact list virus hoax
. In this case, the prankster has substituted "hacker" for "virus", but otherwise the message is very similar to a long list of other variants of the hoax that feature different email addresses. An example of one of the many virus related versions should illustrate this similarity:
If somebody called email@example.com adds you don't accept it because it's a virus!!!! Tell everyone on your bulletin because if somebody on your list adds him, you get the virus too...Copy and paste this!
Moreover, there are also several other virtually identical hacker related versions circulating with different email addresses, including those shown below:
hey if somebody called firstname.lastname@example.org adds you dont accept it because its a hacker. Tell every one on your list because if somebody on your list adds them get them on your list he'll figure out Your ID, computer address, so copy and paste this message to everyone even if you hate them and fast cause if he hacks their email he hacks your mail
if some girl called email@example.com adds u don't accept it because its a hacker tell everyone on ur list because if somebody on ur list adds them u get them on ur list he'll figure out Your ID, computer address
Apparently, pranksters quite regularly substitute a new email address into one of the myriad versions of this silly hoax message and then pass it onto all their friends. And these friends, believing the warning to be valid, pass it on to all their
friends and so on. Thus, at any one time, there is likely to be a large number of different versions of the same pointless "warning" aimlessly traversing cyberspace.
The "firstname.lastname@example.org" version seems to have been somewhat more "successful" and long-lived than some of its many cousins and has spread far and wide. However, this "success" does not make the warning one iota more valid than the less common versions.
As with the virus related versions, the technical aspects of the hacker variant are seriously flawed. The message implies that just accepting the address into your contact list will not only give the hacker access to your computer but to the computers of everyone else on your list as well. This is technically infeasible. Of course, a hacker might use clever ruses to trick you into actually installing malware that allowed him to take control of your computer. And if you inadvertently provided personal information such as a username and password to the hacker, he could possibly access your online accounts and webmail. However, just adding even the cleverest hacker's address to your contact list will not, by itself, afford him this level of hacking power. Some sort of file transfer or exchange of information would, of course, be necessary.
Moreover, such a dangerous hacker would have certainly caught the attention of computer security experts and detailed information about his antics would have been published on various security related websites. In fact, the only mentions of this hacker warning on any credible security information websites are those denouncing it as a hoax
False warning messages like these serve only to clutter the Internet with even more useless information. Please do not pass on this bogus hacker warning and be sure to let others know the information it contains is invalid.
Spoof hacker message circulating on Facebook
MSN Contact List Virus Hoax
MySpace J_Neutron07 virus hoax
Yahoo instant message hoax
Cheap Software Spam - OEM Scams
One of the most common types of spam messages hitting inboxes are those offering software at absurdly low prices. In many cases the advertised price is only a fraction of the normal retail price of the software.
The spam messages normally include a link to a website where visitors can order, not only the specific software advertised, but, a sizable range of other software products as well. These sites are often quite professional in appearance and, at first glance, they may seem to be legitimate online shops selling legal products.
However, in reality, such sites are likely to be selling pirated copies of the advertised software or illegal Other Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) versions. OEM software can usually only be legally sold when it is bundled with a particular hardware package. For example, when a consumer purchases a new computer, some OEM software may come pre-installed and on accompanying computer disks. Usually, this OEM software does not ship with the original packaging or hard-copy manual and includes warnings such as "For distribution with a new PC only". An Anti-Piracy FAQ on the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) website notes
Is it legal to install an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) version of software on a computer other than the one on which the software came?
OEM software is only distributed when sold with specified accompanying hardware. When these programs are copied and/or sold separately from the hardware, it is a violation of the license with the software publisher, and therefore illegal.
Moreover, these bogus websites often claim that a product is an OEM version when it is quite unlikely that it was ever really distributed under an OEM license. Instead, the product is likely to be an illegal pirated copy.
Of course, there are many legitimate websites that sell perfectly legal copies of software products. However, you should be very cautious of purchasing software from a website that has some or all of the following characteristics:
- The software is incredibly cheap when compared with the normal retail price. For example, a high-end graphics software package that normally sells for well over a $1000 is advertised for under $150.
- The site claims that a software product is an OEM version, but it is not being sold as part of an accompanying hardware package such as a PC.
- The site states that you cannot register the software with the manufacturer and may not be able to obtain product updates.
- The site states that the software does not come with original packaging or User Manuals.
- The site advertises its products via spam messages.
Of course, the exceptionally cheap prices of the software offered on the sites may still very tempting. However, before you buy, you would do well to consider the following factors:
- Given that the people operating these websites are unscrupulous enough to sell illegal software and distribute spam, trusting them with your credit card details and other personal information seems very unwise.
- Even if you actually receive the software you purchase, it may be faulty, you may not be able to register it, apply important updates, or reference the original User Manual.
- You will be breaking the law by having illegal software installed on your computer and you will also be helping to drive up the cost of software that other computer users purchase legitimately.
- In many cases, you will be supporting spammers by buying a product as a result of a spam message. Many people, this writer included, consider those who buy from spammers to be as equally culpable as the spammers themselves.
Thus, although such cheap software might seem tempting, purchasing it is simply not worth the risk. If you buy such software, you run a significant risk of becoming a victim of credit card fraud, are aiding and abetting criminal activity, are supporting spammers, and are, yourself, doing something both illegal and unethical.
SIIA: Anti-Piracy FAQ
What is OEM software and can I buy it legally?
OEM software scams on the rise
How to Spot Software Scams and Report Illegal Sellers
Control Spyware with Spyware Doctor - Software Review
Spyware is insidious. Spyware can clandestinely collect data from your computer. It can record keyboard input, including sensitive information such as credit card numbers and banking details. It can deliver intrusive pop-up advertisements and hijack your browser's home page. It can track your web-surfing and web search activities. And, of course, it can send any of this harvested information back to unknown third parties who can then use it for underhand marketing purposes, or outright fraud.
Spyware can also seriously impede the smooth operation of your computer. Spyware infections can lead to a sluggish and unstable system that regularly crashes or freezes.
Often, spyware is included in freeware or shareware programs. When you install these programs, the spyware is installed without your knowledge. Users are also tricked into downloading spyware directly by clicking on deceptive links or browser pop-up buttons. Some spyware installs automatically by exploiting browser vulnerabilities.
Spyware is now one of the most serious threats to computer security and efficiency. In fact, maintaining a spyware free computer is virtually essential to the secure and efficient operation of your system.
Because spyware components can hook themselves so deeply into your computer system, manually removing them can be exceedingly time consuming and difficult even for expert users. Spyware can add entries into the Windows Registry and distribute many different files throughout your hard drive. Even if you subsequently uninstall a program that included spyware, the malicious components can be left behind and remain active on your system.
Thankfully, there are programs available that are specifically designed to remove spyware and protect your system from infection. I have tried out a number of these programs over the last few years, but by far the best I have used is Spyware Doctor from PC Tools. I am exceptionally pleased with its performance.
I have Spyware Doctor configured to automatically download updates and scan the entire computer for spyware every evening. Spyware Doctor also immunizes my computer against a large number of known infections. As well, Spyware Doctor constantly protects my computer in real time from spyware processes, tracking cookies, malicious ActiveX objects and browser hijackers. These three levels of functionality offer thorough protection and real peace of mind.
Spyware Doctor is very easy to use and configure, even for novice computer users. Once configured as desired, this software runs quietly in the background, comprehensively protecting your system from malicious spyware.
I thoroughly recommend Spyware Doctor and I am proud to be a PC Tools affiliate.
As noted above, I am an affiliate for Spyware Doctor. For more information please refer to my Affiliate Marketing Policy
Most Beautiful Mummy Good Luck Chain Letter
Email chain letter with an attached photograph of a child mummy claims that those who send the message to twenty friends will receive good luck.
Photograph is genuine - Good luck for forwarding claims are nonsense.
(Submitted, August 2007)
Subject: Lucky Mummy
The most beautiful mummy in the world!!!
This girl died from a disease at 5 year's old.
Her mother asked a doctor to make her a mummy and kept it in an Italian temple, it's already 80 years.
Believe or not
Are you unlucky recently?
1. I'm an engineer; I was promoted as supervisor in one week after I forwarded this message.
2. I'm a stroked man, and I can walk one month later after I forward this message.
3. I'm areca vendor in Taipei , I sold two or three times as usual after I send this to my friend.
4. I'm student of Minx in college (Taipei), I passed all the exams after I sent this message
Good luck will be your house five days later you ! send this short message to 20 friends!
According to this message, those who forward the email and the attached photograph to twenty other people will receive good luck. The message lists examples, in somewhat fractured English, of the good luck that has come to other recipients who forwarded the email.
The focal point of the message is a photograph of an extremely well-preserved child mummy. According to the message the little girl was mummified after she died many years ago and was subsequently kept in an Italian temple.
The photograph is genuine and shows the remains of little Rosalia Lombardo who died around 1920. Rosalia's body lies in the Capuchins' Catacombs at Palermo in Italy. The very informative King's Capuchins' Catacombs Corpses of Palermo
The catacombs date back to the 1599 when the local priests mummified a holy monk for all to see. They wanted to pray to him after death.
In time the locals wanted their relatives remembered in this same way. Soon there were hundreds of corpses. Some of the deceased wrote wills, expressing the clothes in which to bury them in. Some asked to have their clothes changed over a period of time. Included in the catacombs are hundreds of coffins as well. Some contain the corpse that was buried in them. The side is sometimes cut to expose the deceased.
Children are sometimes posed. Two are seated together in a small rocking chair. Rosalia Lombardo was one of the last corpses to make it to the catacombs before the local authorities discontinued the practice. Rosalia died about 1920 and is nicknamed the "Sleeping Beauty". It was said that her sister and family visited her coffin often after her death.
The site includes the above photograph of Rosalia, as well as another image, attributed to Mike Prenis, depicting a wider view of the child in her coffin.
The chain email claims that Rosalia was five years old when she died. However, the King's Capuchins' Catacombs website and most other resources state that she was probably only two years old. Not much information about the circumstances of Rosalia's death is available. Some references indicate
that she succumbed to influenza. Rosalia Lombardo was embalmed by Dr Alfredo Solafia who reportedly used chemical injections to preserve the body. The exact procedure for this, apparently very effective, embalming technique was lost when Dr Solafia died.
Visitors to Palermo can visit the Catacombs
and view the corpses, including that of little Rosalia.
Although the story of Rosalia Lombardo is quite remarkable, the claim that forwarding her photograph will bring good luck is, in my opinion at least, superstitious nonsense. Are we to believe that denizens of the spirit world have Internet accounts and can track our forwarding activities? I think not! Similar chain letters have circulated via surface mail and email for many years. At least this version does not threaten death or misery for those who do NOT forward the message like some others
of its ilk.
The photograph of little Rosalia is certainly interesting although quite sad. However, sending on a nonsensical chain letter in her name only clutters inboxes and cheapens this poor child's memory.
King's Capuchins' Catacombs Corpses of Palermo
Elfwood: Comments for Little Rosalia Lombardo
The Capuchin Crypt of Palermo
Fake Eggs from China
Email claims that artificial eggs are made in China from a variety of ingredients, some of which may be harmful to humans, and then sold to consumers for considerably less than real eggs.
(Submitted, August 2007)
Subject: Fake Eggs from China! (Shocking - must read)
Beware u guys and gals!
During a recent raid on a wholesale centre in Guangzhou city, the capital of China 's Guangdong province, a large quantity of fake eggs was seized.
Their wholesale price is 0.15 yuan (S$0.03) each - half the price of a real egg.
Consumers have a hard time telling a genuine egg from a fake one. This is good news for unscrupulous entrepreneurs, who are even conducting three-day courses in the production of artificial eggs for less than S$150.
A reporter with Hong Kong-based Chinese magazine East Week enrolled in one such course.
To create egg white, the instructor - a woman in her 20s - used assorted ingredients such as gelatin, an unknown powder, benzoic acid, coagulating material and even alum, which is normally used for industrial processes.
For egg yolk, some lemon-yellow colouring powder is mixed to a liquid and the concoction stirred. The liquid is then poured into a round-shaped plastic mould and mixed with so-called 'magic water', which contains calcium chloride.
This gives the 'yolk' a thin outer membrane, firming it up. The egg is then shaped with a mould. The shell is not forgotten. Paraffin wax and an unidentified white liquid are poured onto the fake egg, which is then left to dry.
The artificial egg can be fried sunny-side up or steamed. Although bubbles appear on the white of the egg, those who have tasted it say the fake stuff tastes very much like the real thing.
But experts warn of the danger of eating fake eggs. Not only do they not contain any nutrients, a Hong Kong Chinese University professor warned that long-term consumption of alum could cause dementia
To make the egg white, various ingredients, including a powder and alum, are mixed together.
The 'yolk' is shaped in the round mould. 'Magic water' containing calcium chloride is used.
Hardy shells are formed by pouring paraffin wax and a liquid onto the egg, which are then left to dry.
According to this email forward, large quantities of counterfeit chicken eggs are being manufactured in China and then sold in markets for around half the price of real eggs. The message claims that the fake eggs are created from a range of ingredients, including gelatin, benzoic acid, coagulating material, alum and "magic water". It also warns that eating the fake eggs could eventually cause dementia because of the alum used in their manufacture.
Versions of the story have been posted on various blogs and forums and have circulated via email for several years. The story gained even more attention after it was published on Consumerist.com
in May 2007. Consumerist.com based the story on a report in the "Internet Journal of Toxicology". However, an article
on the What Tian Has Learned blog discusses the story in depth and concludes that it is a hoax. A reader of the article contacted the editor of "Internet Journal of Toxicology", who replied that the original story, along with another dubious tale by the same author, were "published online by mistake" in the Journal and later removed.
The Consumerist.com article links to an archived version of the original report, but it appears that the Internet Journal of Toxicology has used a robots.txt file to block the "Fake Eggs" story and other previously published articles from appearing in the Internet archive. An update to the Consumerist article acknowledges that the story may be a hoax.
Rumours about artificial eggs in China possibly originated from a 2004 Chinese news article. According to a (roughly translated) Xinhua News Agency article
published on December 28 2004, a mobile street vendor sold a Handan resident an egg that turned out to be "man-made". Examination revealed that the fake egg was made from calcium carbonate, starch, resin, gelatin and other chemical products. The article includes a photograph supposedly showing one of the fake eggs along side a real egg. However, there is no way of telling from the photograph if one of the eggs is fake or not. Moreover, although I did
locate a few vague and unsubstantiated references
, I could find no other credible
reports confirming such incidents.
Never the less, it cannot be ruled out that such an incident did occur as described. But even if it did happen, there is no evidence to suggest that making and selling artificial eggs in China is a widespread and well-documented practice that is so advanced that it even has fake egg production classes available. If true, it seems quite likely that such an interesting story would have garnered the attention of various news outlets around the world.
It should be noted that the egg described in the Xinhua News Agency article was quickly revealed as fake during cooking because the yolk and white ran together, the egg stayed very hard after boiling and it did not smell like a real egg. In contrast, the fake eggs described in later versions of the tale claim that they can be cooked like real eggs and even taste very much the same. It seems highly improbable that an "egg" made from a concoction of chemical substances, including alum, would taste and smell anything like a real egg.
Moreover, the method of fake egg production described seems quite labour-intensive. After factoring in the cost of ingredients and the time spent on production, it is difficult to believe that fake eggs could be profitably sold at half the price of real eggs. In general, the motivation for creating fake products for sale is that the fakes can be produced at a fraction of the cost of the genuine article, thereby generating an easy profit. In this case, such a profit seems unlikely.
does have food related uses, including hardening gelatin and is indeed dangerous, or even fatal, to humans if consumed in more than very small amounts. And aluminum has been linked
to Alzheimer's disease.
Perhaps unscrupulous vendors in China have
attempted to palm off fake, and probably inedible, eggs as the real thing from time to time. But claims about a well-organized and widespread fake egg market in China seem dubious. Of course, stories that seem too weird to be true sometimes do turn out to be based on fact after all. However, at least until more evidence is forthcoming, I'd be consuming this particular egg tale with a grain of salt.
How To Make A Counterfeit Egg, China Style
Hoax - Chinese Counterfeit Eggs
Artificial eggs into Handan (In Chinese)
Artificial eggs into Handan (Google Translation)
China, a Haven for Fake Goods
The facts about human health and aluminum in drinking water
Egg Piracy In China
Totally Revamped Hoax-Slayer Forums
I'm pleased to announce that the new-look Hoax-Slayer Forums are now ready, and waiting for new members.
The software I am using for the new forums gives me a great deal more control over their appearance and behavior than I had with the older incarnation. Most importantly, with the new forums, I am able to apply more powerful anti-spam measures which should go a long way towards keeping spamming slime and their vile little bots under control.
I'm intending to do all I can to create an active and informative online community, so please come on over and have a peek. We'd love to have you!
The forums are completely free to join and do not display any advertising.
Project Honey Pot
At any given time, there are many thousands of spam robots, crawlers and spiders trolling the Internet on behalf of their spammer masters. These tiny automated computer programs are some of the most powerful tools used by spammers.
Harvesters sniff around websites collecting email addresses and this is one of the most common ways that spammers build their email lists. Other bots can automatically register on blogs and forums and post comment spam, thereby causing endless problems for forum and blog owners and their members.
One of the best ways for website owners and bloggers to fight against spammers is to participate in Project Honey Pot. This project allows website owners to install special web pages called "honey pots" on their sites that can help identify spambots and gather information about their activities. The spambots are tricked into visiting these honey pot pages when they follow special links placed elsewhere on the participating website. These links are hidden to human visitors, but can be easily "seen" and followed by patrolling spambots. As well as catching email address harvesters, some of the honey pot pages also contain special forms that can help catch out comment spammers.
To install a full honey pot you need to have the ability and authority to install software on your website. However, if this is not the case, for example if you operate a blog or forum administrated by a third party, you can still participate by placing "QuickLinks" on your site. QuickLinks send spambots to a honey pot installed on another website
The information collected by Project Honey Pot is used against the spammers responsible. The Project Honey Pot "About" page notes:
We collate, process, and share the data generated by your site with you. We also work with law enforcement authorities to track down and prosecute spammers. Harvesting email addresses from websites is illegal under several anti-spam laws, and the data resulting from Project Honey Pot is critical for finding those breaking the law.
Additionally, we will periodically collate the email messages we receive and share the resulting corpus with anti-spam developers and researchers. The data participants in Project Honey Pot will help to build the next generation of anti-spam software.
Over the last week, I have installed several honey pots on my websites. I'm pleased to say that Hoax-Slayer honey pots have already began to catch spambots. If you are in a position to install a Honey Pot or QuickLinks, I urge you to join this very worthwhile project. Even if you cannot install a Honey Pot or QucikLinks yourself, you can still help by spreading the word about the project.
Click the banner below to visit the Project Honey Pot website and find out more information.
Hoax-Slayer Humour: NASA Picture of Water on Mars (amazing)
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©Brett M. Christensen, 2008