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Issue 23 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 23: 14th April, 2004

This week in Hoax-Slayer:
Overpayment Cheque Scam

People selling high-ticket items such as cars, motorcycles or computer gear via the Internet should be aware of a cheque scam that is bilking victims out of thousands of dollars. Although the scam has been around for quite some time, recent trends indicate that it is netting an increasing amount of victims, especially among car owners looking to sell their vehicles.

Typically, an overpayment cheque scam works like this:

The supposed buyers usually originate out of West African nations such as Nigeria. In fact, it is probable that the same gang of con-artists that run Nigerian loan scams and international lottery scams are responsible for the overpayment cheque scam as well. Like the Nigerian scam, the intent is to draw the potential victim deeper into the scam via a series of emails.

To protect yourself against this sort of scam, never agree to a deal in which the payer wishes to issue an amount for more than the agreed price and expects you to reimburse the balance. The scammers use a variety of excuses to explain the overpayment, but any such excuse should be treated with the utmost suspicion.

View some examples of the scam emails.

Reference Article.


Don't Flash your Lights? Gang Initiation Myth Hits London

Some London residents have become the latest to be caught out by an aging urban legend that claims drivers are in danger from gang members participating in a violent initiation ritual. The legend, which spreads via word of mouth, fax and email, warns drivers that if they see a car driving without headlights after dark, they should not signal the car's driver in any way. According to the hoax, a new gang member is driving the car operating without lights as part of an initiation ceremony. Supposedly, those who signal the driver will be followed and shot at by the "gang member" to complete the "initiation".

Police have reassured the public that no such crimes have currently been reported in London. The hoax began circulating via email and fax back in 1993 and may have originated from even earlier stories involving motorcycle gangs. It was also given new life by the 1998 film "Urban Legend" which featured the initiation ritual described.

While incidents resembling the one described in the hoax have actually occurred, they are thought to be copycat crimes inspired by the legend itself. Bogus warnings such as this one should be deleted rather than forwarded. Indeed, such messages are far from harmless. They can waste the valuable time of police staff who have to field endless enquires about such spurious claims. They can spread unnecessary fear and alarm within a community. At worst, they may encourage criminals to act out the myth in real life.

Over the years, there have been a number of versions of the hoax.

An example of the hoax:

Police warning

One of the officers who works with the DARE programme has passed long the following warning and asked that it be shared with all drivers.

This is an extremely serious matter. If you are driving after dark and you see a car without its headlights on do not flash your lights, do not blow your horn or make any signals to the driver of the other car. This is a new common gang initiation game going on the streets.

The new member being initiated drives along without his headlights on until someone notices and flashes their headlights or makes some other action to signal him. The gang member is now required to chase the car and to shoot at or into the car in order to complete his initiation requirements.

Please take this seriously. This is not a joke. Please pass this on to everyone you know on email and in person. It could save someone's life!

Drive-by shooting myth grips public.


Virus Report: Weekly Virus Wrap-Up

The list below represents some of the most significant new virus threats identified by Symantec Security Response over the last few days.

W32.Sasser.Worm and its variants are a significant threat.

See also:

W32.Wallon.A@mm is another mass-mailing email worm that collects email addresses off the infected machine. The worm arrives as an email that contains a hyperlink. Clicking on the link can cause the body of the worm to be downloaded. The worm exploits a vulnerability in Internet Explorer.

W32.Gaobot.AJD is another worm that exploits vulnerabilities in Windows based systems and can spread via open network shares. It can also spread via backdoors installed by other worms such as MyDoom. The worm can interfere with the running of anti-virus and security programs. There are a number of variants of this worm.


Amy Bruce Email Hoax

This absurd chain letter began circulating back in 1999 and is still being passed around. The information presented in the email is a total fabrication. There is no 7-year-old Amy Bruce who is dying of both lung cancer and a brain tumour. Furthermore, the Make A Wish Foundation is not donating money every time the email is forwarded. The Make A Wish Foundation would not support such an email campaign, even if it were true. In fact, the organization has a page on its website debunking the Amy Bruce hoax and other similar hoaxes.

The concept of individual emails being "tracked" as they journey through cyberspace is a common theme among hoax emails. The only way to "track" an email would be to embed some sort of hidden code in the email and it would have to be continually forwarded in HTML format in order to contain the code. The logistics of tracking an email that could ultimately be forwarded thousands of times are clearly problematical at best.

In any case, tracking an email in the way described would raise all sorts of privacy issues and it is highly unlikely that any ethical organization would knowingly participate in such a practice.

Another hoax that uses a similar tactic is Debbie Shwartz Charity Hoax, which also claims that money will be donated every time an email is forwarded. As well, the Jasmine Thomas Charity Hoax claims the American Red Cross will donate money when the email is passed on.

Hoaxes like these do nothing more that cause trouble for our charitable organizations. Charities such as the Make A Wish Foundation have to devote valuable resources to answering queries about their supposed involvement. If you receive one of these hoaxes, please delete it without forwarding.

Hi, my name is Amy Bruce. I am 7 years old, and I have severe lung cancer from second hand smoke. I also have a large tumor in my brain, from repeated beatings. doctors say I will die soon if this isn't fixed, and my family can't pay the bills. The Make A Wish Foundation, has agreed to donate 7 cents for every time this message is sent on.

For those of you who send this along, I thank you so much, but for those who don't send it, what goes around comes around. Have a Heart, please send this. Please, if you are a kind person, send this on. PLEASE HIT FORWARD BUTTON "NOT REPLY BUTTON".


Kidney Stealing Email Hoax

Some resourceful individual has been kind enough to give an Australian flavour to this classic old hoax which is still circulating. The hoax enjoyed a resurgance late last year and it appears that it is once again going the rounds. The hoax has been making its way around the in-boxs of the world since 1997.

Sydneysiders can relax, as there is in fact NO sinister gang of medically trained criminals out and about stealing kidneys.

This tale has been around in one form or another for many years, but email and the Internet has given it new life and the perfect vehicle for propagation. And what a great little tale it is! A mini-horror story right there in your email in-box! It's not surprising that this email hoax has proved so resilient and enduring. It's the sort of tale that cries "share me!",....hence a piece of junk mail, that should ideally be cast into binary oblivion once and for all, keeps on keeping on.

The National Kidney foundation has an article on its website about this hoax.

THIS IS TRUE STORY, RING THE BOTTOM NUMBER IF YOU DONT BELIEVE IT!! Medical Centre phone number at the end of this story is real. This guy went out on a Saturday night a few weeks ago to a party. He was having a good time and had a couple of beers and some girl seemed to like him and invited him to go to another party. He quickly agreed and decided to go along with her. She took him to a party in some apartment and they continued to drink, and even got involved with some drug (unknown).

The next thing he knew, he woke up completely naked in a bathtub filled with ice. He was still feeling the effects of the drugs, but looked around to see he was alone. He looked down at his chest, which had CALL 000 or YOU'LL DIE" written on it with lipstick. He saw a phone was on a stand next to the tub so he picked it up and dialled. He explained to the EMS operator what the situation was and that he didn't know where he was, what he took, or why he was really calling. She advised him to get out of the tub. He did, and he appeared normal, so she told him to check his back. He did, he found two 9 inch slits on his lower back. She told him to get back into the tub immediately, and they sent a rescue team over.

Apparently, after being examined, he found out more of what had happened. His kidneys were stolen. They were worth $10,000 each in the black market.Several guesses are in order: The second party was a sham, the people involved had to be at least medical students and it was not just recreational drugs he was given. Regardless, he is currently in the hospital on a life support, awaiting a spare kidney. The University of Sydney in conjunction with the Royal Prince Alfred hospital is conducting tissue research to match the victim with a donor.

I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business travellers. This ring is well organized and well funded, has very skilled personnel and is currently operating in most major cities around the world and recently very active in Sydney . The crime begins when a business traveller goes to a lounge for a drink at the end of the work day. A person in the bar walks up as they sit alone and offers to buy them a drink. The last thing the traveller remembers until they wake up in a hotel room bathtub, their body submerged to their neck in ice, is sipping that drink.

There is a note taped to the wall instructing them not to move and to call 000. A phone is on the small table next to the bathtub for them to call. The business traveller calls 000 who have been quite familiar with this crime. The business traveller is instructed by the 000 operator to very slowly and carefully reach behind them and feel there i s a tube protruding from the back. The business traveller finds the tube and answers "YES". The 000 operator tells them to remain still, having already sent paramedics to help. The operator knows that both of the traveller's kidneys had been harvested.

This is not a scam or out of science fiction novel. It is real. It is documented and confirmable. If you travel or someone close to you travels, please be careful. Sadly,this is very true. My friend's husband is a Sydney EMT and they have received alerts regarding this crime ring. It is to be taken very seriously. The daughter of a friend of a fire-fighter had this happen to her.

Skilled doctors are performing these crimes! (which, by the way have been highly noted in the Brisbane area). Additionally, the military has received alerts regarding this. I REALLY WANT AS MANY PEOPLE TO SEE THIS AS POSSIBLE SO PLEASE BOUNCE THIS TO WHOEVER YOU CAN. (Person's Name) DML/Lab Administration Medical Manager Research And Development [CONTACT DETAILS REMOVED]

PLEASE forward this to everyone you know


Tip of the Week: Disabling the Caps Lock and Insert Keys

I tend to get a bit heavy handed when I'm word processing and often inadvertently press the Caps Lock key or the Insert key. This can be irritating and waste time.

I've found a tiny freeware program called CapsUnlock that allows you to disable both the Caps Lock key and the Insert key. The program runs in the background and you can control it via an icon that resides in the System Tray (near the clock). A right click menu allows you to easily enable and disable the keys, or turn the program off altogether.

The download site claims that the software is suitable for all Windows Operating systems and I've found that it works fine on both my Windows 98 and Windows XP machines.

You can get the program here:


Feedback from Readers and Site Visitors

Each week a growing number of site visitors have been good enough to submit examples of hoax or scam emails they have received. If you receive a hoax or scam email, I would appreciate it if you would send me a copy.

By far the most popular topic for submission this week was the Swiffer Pet Death Hoax.

As usual, the Teddy Bear Virus Hoax was also a popular subject.

The Hoax-Slayer website article about Camel Spiders in Iraq is still receiving a large number of visitors.

Some submissions involved the latest version of the Xbox Giveaway Hoax, while I received others regarding the Perfume Email Hoax.

Thanks again for all your submissions! Also, if you have any suggestions or comments regarding the newsletter, I would be most pleased to receive them.


The Hoax_Slayer Newsletter is published by:
Brett M.Christensen
Queensland, Australia
All Rights Reserved
©Brett M. Christensen, 2009
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