Issue 24 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter
Issue 24: 21st May, 2004
This week in Hoax-Slayer:
US Bank Phishing Scam
Like a number of other major financial institutions, the US bank
is once again the target of phishing scammers. Emails supposedly
from the US bank claim that customers need to update their accounts
"due to inactive members, frauds and spoof reports". A link in
the email leads to a fraudulent website that asks for sensitive
personal and banking information. Although such websites may look
like an official bank site, they are in fact created by scammers
solely to trick people into providing personal information. The
scam email reproduced below is just one example in a long line of
similar emails that have targeted US Bank.
US bank has more information
and reporting procedures regarding these fraudulent emails on their website.
Another popular target
for phishing scammers is Citibank.
Read more information
about phishing scams in general.
Sundarbans Ghost Hoax Email
This chain letter was circulating briskly late last year, but it
appears to be gaining momentum once again.
The email attempts to re-enforce a typical chain letter message
by attaching a "ghost" photograph. Like many chain letters, the
email promises good luck for those who forward the message and
bad luck for those who don't. Given that the image of the "ghost"
has appeared on the Internet before in completely different
contexts, it is not hard to work out that the picture is a
The photograph was supposedly taken in the Sundarbans, which is
a National Park in Bangladesh. Earlier in 2003, India's Thanthi
newspaper published the smiling "ghost" picture, causing fear and
alarm among residents of Tiruchi. The article falsely reported
that the boy in the photograph had slipped into a coma after
viewing the picture. The same image appears in another "ghost
photo" featured on the Castle of Spirits
Although the photo is clearly a fake, it is rather scary!
Subject: Fw: Read before u view the picture - Believe it not
The guy in the photo went to the Sundarbans with his friends and
he asked 1 of his friends to take his picture in that very place.
While his friend was taking the picture he screamed and fainted,
2 days later he died in the medical college. Doctors said he died
because of heart attack.
When the photos were exposed, in the last photo there was a lady
standing right beside him though friends claim that he was
Many people said it is a rumor and the picture is the result of
the blessings of latest technology. However, the photo itself is
very scary and I'm sure you'll also feel the same way I've felt.
Here you go with the photo!!!
A navy officer sent this letter to 13 people and he was promoted..
A business man received this letter and threw it away..not
believing in it.. and he lost everything he had within 13 days..
It reached a labourer and he distributed it to 13 people.. he was
promoted and all his problems were solved within 13 days..
So you must send this e mail to 13 people for something good to
happen to you so people..get sending !! :) don't be lazy..
P/S : Do not send back to the person who send this to you!!!
[Click image for full size view]
Bonsai Kittens Email Petition
Email exhorts recipients to sign and forward a message protesting the practise of creating "bonsai kittens" by placing cats in class jars to restrict their growth (Full commentary below.
Pointless! Nobody is making bonsai kittens.
FOR EVERYONE WHO LOVES ANIMALS
There is a Japanese man living in New York that sells
The guy puts the kittens in glass bottle then puts a probe
in their anus that gets out from a gap in the bottle to
dispense their urine and faeces. For the kittens to take
the bottle shape, they are fed with chemicals to melt the
bones. Then he keeps the cats for as long as they can
They can't move, walk or clean up.
He calls this "art".
This cruelty is the last fashion in NYC, China, Indonesia,
New Zeland, because is a "decoration pet".
If you want more information take a look in this site :
http://www.shorty.com/bonsaikitten/bkmethod.html, and the babies
into of a glass bottle in http://www.shorty.com/bonsaikitten/gray.html
We are making a list to sent to Animals Protection Association
n USA and Mexico, and to TV news, to stop this.
We call out to anybody that loves cats or just has basic respect
for LIFE - please put your name in the end of this list, then
forward this e-mail to anyone you can think of.
If in the list you find more than 500 names, please send a copy
to [ADDRESS REMOVED]
We are very thankfull to your help and we ask you to send
There a probably few sites on the Internet that have spawned more hatred and condemnation than the Bonsai Kittens website. The site supposedly provides information about how to create "bonsai kittens" by cramming cats into class jars so that they grow to take on the shape of the jar.
Information on the website notes:
By physically constraining the growth of a developing living thing, it can be directed to take the shape of the vessel that
constrains it. Just as a topiary gardener produces bushes that take the forms of animals or any other thing, you no longer need be satisfied with a housepet having the same mundane shape as all other members of its species.
For years, email chain letters condemning the procedure as unconscionably cruel and calling for the closure of the site have
continually made their way around the inboxes of the world. The infamous site even drew the attention of the FBI. A 2001 report
on Wired.com notes:
FBI agents in the Boston field office have launched an investigation into the site. They also have served MIT with a grand jury subpoena asking for "any and all subscriber information" about the site, which was initially hosted in a campus dormitory but has since moved to a commercial provider.
MIT said in a letter to bonsaikitten.com's pseudonymous webmaster, a graduate student using the alias Dr. Michael Wong Chang, that it will wait until Sunday to turn over records that would identify him by name.
"I was surprised," Chang said. "I really thought that the FBI had better things to do. That's your tax dollars at work."
Of course, this widespread condemnation and anger is not at all surprising. If it were actually real, the act of creating bonsai kittens would constitute criminal cruelty to animals. But, in reality, the website is nothing more than an ill-conceived and incredibly tasteless joke apparently perpetrated by an MIT student.
The techniques described are clearly impossible, and are certainly not being carried out as described. Moreover, the site does not actually sell equipment used to create bonsai kittens, nor has it ever done so. The apparent advertisement of bonsai kittens products included on the site are entirely bogus and intended only to further the illusion that the techniques described are real.
An article on the Humane Society of the United States website notes
The Massachusetts SPCA and the FBI initiated an investigation of the site's creator, but discovered no evidence of actual animal abuse or the sale of bonsai kitten "products," though the investigation remains active. If the creator is not e-mailing the obscene materials to an unwilling audience, violating a User's Agreement, committing the abuse depicted on site, or actually selling products involving animal cruelty, then the site is considered free speech and is protected by the First Amendment.
As with other satirical websites, there are no overt statements or disclaimers on the Bonsai Kittens website that specifically inform visitors that its claims are not intended to be taken seriously. Hence, after visiting the site, many people believe that bonsai kittens really are being created and are consequently outraged.
However, a closer examination of the site content soon reveals a number of tongue-in-cheek references that indicate the satirical nature of the information. For example, the site claims that those who wish to create bonsai kittens need to apply for and receive a "Bonsai Kitticulture" permit from the U.S. government. This claim is clearly nonsense and no such permit system exists. In another section, the site claims that young kittens have "springy" bones and will bounce when thrown on the floor. Again, this is obviously total nonsense. And a series of nonsensical entries in a fake "Guest Book" included on the site provide further evidence that the site is a hoax. These entries include outlandish "praise" of the site as well as absurd comments about creating bonsai boyfriends, children and horses.
Although there are photographs of cats on the site, they do not show a "finished" bonsai kitten. Instead, they depict cats in or
behind unsealed jars. It appears that the defenceless animals in the pictures were thrust into jars and otherwise manipulated to create the desired images. This is cruel enough even if there was no intention to seal the jars and create bonsai cats. Also, some sick individuals might be moved to actually try the procedures outlined on the site.
The site itself has apparently moved locations several times during its history and been banned by several hosting providers. The domain name used in some versions of the petition emails, www.bonsaikitten.com, now leads to an advertising portal that has no relation to the original Bonsai Kittens website. At the time of writing, a mirror of the original website
was available on Shorty.com.
Clever satire certainly has its place. But there is nothing remotely clever or funny about a website that uses potential animal cruelty as the foundation for its satire, even if no kittens were actually harmed. However, even if you do think the site is in such poor taste that it should be eradicated from the Internet once and for all, "signing" and forwarding an email petition on the subject is quite unlikely to achieve your aim. Email petitions are essentially ineffective, especially if the information they contain is erroneous, outdated or misleading, as is the case with the bonsai kittens email. In fact, there are a number of significant problems
with email-based petitions that render them virtually useless
Ironically, forwarding the email is more likely to keep the site operational than help to shut it down. The furore caused by the site content, and the free promotion provided by the constant circulation of thousands of petition emails means that the site most probably gets a constant stream of visitors. Its continued notoriety is likely to encourage its misguided perpetrator to continue to keep the site active and online rather than remove it. The Humane Society article notes:
Please do not e-mail or otherwise contact the person running the site. The negative attention he's received has fueled the posting of the site in several locations and the formation of a group of supporters.
The article also contains information about more effective methods of registering protest
against the bonsai kittens website and other sites that promote animal cruelty.
Another version of the petition:
FOR EVERYONE WHO LOVES ANIMALS!!
FBI Goes After Bonsaikitten.com
Humane Society: Bonsai Kitten Web Site
Bonsai Kitten Mirror
Are Email Petitions Useful?
This is sick.
A site that we were able to shut last year has returned. We have to try to shut it down again! A Japanese man in New York breeds and sells kittens that are called BONSAI CATS. That would sound cute, if it weren't kittens that were put in to little bottles after being given a muscle relaxant and then locked up for the rest of their lives. The cats are fed through a straw and have a small tube for their feaces.
The skeleton of the cat will take on the form of the bottle as the kitten grows. The cats never get the opportunity to move. They are used as original and exclusive souvenirs. These are the latest trends in New York, China, Indonesia and New Zealand. If you think you can handle it, view www.bonsaikitten.com and have a look at the methods being used to put these little kittens into bottles.
This petition needs 500 names, so please put your one name on it!!! Copy the text into a new email and put your name on the bottom, then send it to everyone you know. If you notice that there are 500 names on the list, please send it to: [ADDRESS REMOVED]
Note- Copy this e-mail, paste it into a new one - DON'T forward it - add your name, and send it to everyone you know!
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
is a mass-mailing worm that sends itself to email
addresses it finds on the infected machine. The email message
carrying the worm will be one of the following:
- Mail transaction failed. Partial message is available.
- The message cannot be represented in 7-bit ASCII encoding and
has been sent as a binary attachment.
- The message contains Unicode characters and has been sent as a
The message may also be blank or consist of random characters.
is a worm that allows attackers to access an
infected computer. It can terminate the processes of antivirus
and security applications. It exploits vulnerabilities in Windows
2000, Windows NT, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP.
exploit the LSASS vulnerability
on unpatched Windows XP systems. Unpatched systems should be
updated as soon as possible.
Don't Buy from Spammers
Email is one of the most useful forms of communication that humans
have yet devised. However, the value of email is being steadily
eroded by the increasing amount of spam that is cluttering our
inboxes. So why is spam increasing? Unfortunately, the simple
answer is "Because it WORKS!"
Every time someone buys a product or service advertised in a spam
email or even clicks on a spam link, the spammers reap the benefits.
If nobody ever responded to spam, the problem would go away. Yes,
I know that's a somewhat simplistic, and self evident, analysis of
a complex problem, but it is fundamentally correct.
Obviously, there is always going to be those who buy from spammers
and there is little we can do about it. However, as individuals,
we can make sure that we don't make the problem worse by following
a simple policy.
- Don't buy from spammers, EVER! No matter how attractive their
offer might be, do not give them your money.
- Don't click on their links, even if you are curious. The extra
site visit will just encourage them to send even more garbage,
even if you don't buy anything.
- Don't respond to spam emails in any way. Don't reply or use
their bogus "unsubscribe" links as this will just let them know
that you have an active email address and you will get even more
If nothing else, by following this policy I at least have the
satisfaction of knowing that not one grubby little spammer is
ever going to get a single cent from me.
Tip of the Week: Assigning Keyboard Shortcuts
For many programs, you can easily assign your own keyboard
- Right click on the program's desktop shortcut icon and select
- In the Shortcut Key box, enter the key of your choice, for
- Windows will automatically add the extra key sequence needed,
for example: "Ctrl + Alt".
- Now you can run the program directly from the keyboard by
keying "Ctrl + Alt + Z". Using keyboard shortcuts means there is
no need to minimize open windows in order to run a program.
Note: If you use one of the F keys instead of a letter, you can
achieve one key shortcuts! However, be aware that this may
conflict with an existing function for that key. For instance,
you could use the F1 key, but this will mean that F1 will no
longer open Windows Help. (You could still open "Help" via the
Feedback from Readers and Site Visitors
If you receive a hoax or scam email, I would appreciate it if you
would send me a copy
This week, I've received a large number of lottery scam email,
both from readers and direct from the scammers. I have put more
information and examples
about lottery scams on the Hoax-Slayer site.
A number of submissions involved phisher scam emails targeting the
US Bank, Citibank and others.
The Swiffer Pet Death Hoax
was again a popular topic for submissions this week.
Speaking of the Swiffer hoax, one reader mentioned that she had
heard of a similar email that targeted another cleaning product,
Simple Green. If you have received the Simple Green version,
I'd appreciate it if you would send me a copy.
Once again, thank you for your submissions!
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©Brett M. Christensen, 2009
Questions or Comments