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Issue 28 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 28: 22nd June, 2004

This week in Hoax-Slayer:
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Hoax-Slayer is 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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Glade Plug-in Fire Hazard Email

A common visitor to inboxes at the moment is an email that claims houses have been burnt down by Glade Plug-in air fresheners.

Like many similar in-box "warnings" there are a no verifiable facts in the email. Neither the names of the fire victims, nor the name of the city where the alleged fire took place are mentioned in the email. In other words, there is no way of checking that the fire ever happened.

If plug-in related fires were as common as claimed by the "investigator", there would most likely be official warnings about these products, verifiable proof of their danger, and considerable interest from the mainstream media.

Having said that, it should be noted that there have been a quite a number of cases, and a class action law suit, in which consumers have blamed plug-ins for house fires. However, most, if not all, of the claims appear to be unsubstantiated. According to a Glade company spokesperson, quoted in a Business Journal of Milwaukee article, "no plug-in air fresheners manufactured by the company have been positively determined to cause fires".

In 2002, there was a recall of one type of Glade Plug-in due to a potential fire risk. There was concern that the plug-ins had been miss-assembled. However, as far as I know there were no fires attributed to these recalled plug-ins. The recall was a voluntary precautionary measure on the part of the manufacturer.

So is this a case of smoke without fire? Without more information, there is no way of verifying if the claims in the email are truth or fiction. Any electrical appliance is a potential fire risk if it is missused, poorly maintained or faulty. Perhaps plug-in doadd to the overall risk of an electrical fire. Consumers certainly need to consider any potential fire risk before deciding to use the product. But I would question the wisdom of basing this decision on completely unsubstantiated information contained in an email forward.

Subject: Safety warning

i was sent this from a forward this isnt anybody i know however,, its good to know stuff like this

Friends,
My brother and his wife learned a hard lesson this last week. Their house burned down...nothing left but ashes. They have good insurance, so the home will be replaced and most of the contents. That is the good news. However, they were sick when they found out the cause of the fire.

The insurance investigator sifted through the ashes for several hours. He had the cause of the fire traced to the master bathroom. He asked my sister-in-law what she had plugged in in the bathroom. She listed the normal things. ...curling iron,blow dryer. He kept saying to her, "No, this would be something that would disintegrate at high temperatures." Then, my sister-in-law remembered she had a Glade Plug-in in the bathroom. The investigator had one of those "Aha" moments. He said that was the cause of the fire. He said he has seen more home fires started with the plug in type room fresheners than anything else. He said the plastic they are made from is a THIN plastic. He said in every case there was nothing left to prove that it even existed. When the investigator looked in the wall plug, the two prongs left from the plug-in were still in there.

My sister-in-law had one of the plug-ins that had a small night light built in it. She said she had noticed that the light would dim....and then finally go out. She would walk in a few hours later, and the light would be back on again. The Investigator said that the unit was getting too hot, and would dim and go out rather than just blow the light bulb. Once it cooled down, it would come back on. That is a warning sign.

The investigator said he personally wouldn't have any type of plug in fragrance device anywhere in his house. He has seen too many burned down homes.

Thought I would warn you all. I had several of them plugged in my house. I immediately took them all down.


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PayPal Phisher Scams

Online payment service, PayPal has been a regular target for Phisher scammers over the last year or so. One of the latest scam emails asks recipients to log onto a webpage and provide account details or risk "restriction and removal" of the account. The email and the associated log-in webpage look quite legitimate and resemble official PayPal documents. However, they are clever fakes designed to trick recipients into sending their PayPal log-in information to cyber-criminals. Once the scammers have this information, they can easily hijack the victim's account.

The usual method employed by phisher scammers is to randomly send out thousands of scam emails in the hope of netting just a few victims. I've received the copy below and a number of others, even though I am not a PayPal account holder.

If you receive one of these emails, do not respond and do not click on the links provided.

PayPal has information about these fraudulent emails on its website.

Below is a copy of one of the scam emails:

Dear PayPal Customer
This e-mail is the notification of recent innovations taken by PayPal to detect inactive customers and non-functioning mailboxes. The inactive customers are subject to restriction and removal in the next 1 month.Please confirm your email address and credit card information by clicking the link below:

[LINK REMOVED]

This notification expires July 1, 2004

Thanks for using PayPal!

This PayPal notification was sent to your mailbox. Your PayPal account is set up to receive the PayPal Periodical newsletter and product updates when you create your account. To modify your notification preferences and unsubscribe, go to [LINK REMOVED] and log in to your account. Changes to your preferences may take several days to be reflected in our mailings. Replies to this email will not be processed.

Copyrightę 2004 PayPal Inc. All rights reserved. Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.


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Patching Your Windows System

In the last issue I wrote about how to order the security update CD from Microsoft. I'm happy to report that the copy I ordered has already arrived, and I've successfully used it to patch my neighbour's computer.

However, the CD is only a partial solution. It is very important that Microsoft Windows users check for security updates on a regular basis. Devastating Internet worms like MS Blaster and Sasser succeed only because there are so many vulnerable systems available for them to exploit. Such worms cause millions of dollars worth of damage around the world. Ironically, if a significant majority of Windows users had taken just a few minutes to apply the available security updates, these attacks would have been annoying Internet whirly-winds rather than destructive hurricanes. I know from personal experience that many users don't regularly check for updates, or even understand why it is important.

If you are not familiar with using Windows Update, the following guide should point you in the right direction. This is an important issue so I will do my best to provide extra help if you need it. If you have a question about Windows Update, post a query in the "Computer Problems" section of the Hoax-Slayer Forums.

Windows Update instructions:

  1. Connect to the Internet, click "Start" and then click on the item labelled "Windows Update" on the menu. Exactly where on the menu it is located may depend on the particular flavour of Windows you are using.

  2. Internet Explorer should now open at the Microsoft Windows Update web page. Click the link labelled "Scan for Updates".

  3. You may be prompted to download one or more small programs that are needed for the scanning procedure. Click "OK" when prompted, so that the scan can proceed.

  4. When the scan is finished, it will tell you if there are updates available. The most important ones are those listed as "Critical Updates and Service Packs" or just "Critical Updates".

  5. Click on the link for "Critical Updates" and it will present you with the option of selecting and downloading the updates.



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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.Paps.A@mm is a worm that sends itself to email addresses it finds on the infected computer. The subject line, message body and attachment name of the emails vary but the attachment will have a .exe file extension.

Variations of the Korgo worm continue to spread. These worms use the LSASS vulnerability present in unpatched Windows 2000, and XP systems.

It is very important that Windows users visit Windows Update on a regular basis to ensure that have the latest patches for their operating system. See the article above for details.

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Roach Eggs on Envelopes Hoax Email

Below is an example of yet another horror story email that involves creepy-crawlies. This one involves cockroaches rather than spiders, and relies for effect on our natural human revulsion at the thought of insects invading our anatomy.

Although it makes for a lovely little in-box tale, there is not a grain of truth in it. A little research on the subject reveals that roach eggs are actually laid in batches and stored in an egg case. Depending on the species, each egg case can hold as many as 52 individual eggs and the eggs cannot survive outside this case. Therefore, if the story were true, the hapless victim would have ended up with a mouth full of the critters rather than just one. Also, the egg cases are quite large, and even if one did end up on the lickable portion of envelopment, it is quite unlikely that the lickee would not have noticed it!

What's more, the claim that the story was reported on CNN appears to be false. A search of the CNN site reveals no mention of the story. A similar, and equally false, tale claims that a girl was found to have roach eggs in her salivary glands as a result of eating a taco. The similarity of the emails is further evidence that both stories are fiction.

Mind you, the email's advice to "never lick an envelope" might be worth heeding. The taste of the glue can make your coffee taste bad!



References:
http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/kunkel/cockroach_faq.html
http://www.unexco.com/roach1.html
http://pested.unl.edu/roachind.htm

An example of the hoax:
Subject: Licking Envelopes

A woman was working in a post office in California. One day she licked he envelopes and postage stamps instead of using a sponge. That very day the lady cut her tongue on the envelope. A week later, she noticed an abnormal swelling of her tongue. She went to the doctor, and they found nothing wrong. Her tongue was not sore or anything. A couple of days later, her tongue started to swell more, and it began to get really sore, so sore, that she could not eat. She went back to the hospital, and demanded something be done. The doctor took an x-ray of her tongue and noticed a lump. He prepared her for minor surgery. When the doctor cut her tongue open, a live cockroach crawled out!!!! There were roach eggs on the seal of the envelope. The egg was able to hatch inside of her tongue, because of her saliva. It was warm and moist...

This is a true story reported on CNN. Andy Hume wrote "Hey, I used to work in an envelope factory. You wouldn't believe the things that float around in those gum applicator trays. I haven't licked an envelope for years!"

To All: I used to work for a print shop (32 years ago) and we were told NEVER to lick the envelopes. I never understood why until I had to go into storage and pull out 2500 envelops that were already printed for a customer who was doing a mailing and saw several squads of roaches roaming around inside a couple of boxes with eggs everywhere. They eat the glue on the envelopes. I think print shops have a harder time controlling roaches than a restaurant. I always buy the self sealing type. Or if need be I use a glue stick to seal one that has the type of glue that needs to be wet to stick.

PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS. After reading this you will never lick another envelope or stamp ever again


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Tip of the Week: Text to Speech

ReadPlease is an excellent freeware program that converts text to speech. To use it, you simply copy and paste the text you want to hear into the program window and press "play". There are two female and two male voices to choose from and you can vary the speed of the voices as well as the font size of the written text.

I use ReadPlease as a way of checking essays or other written work. Actually hearing the material spoken out loud can help to identify grammatical errors, missing words and even spelling mistakes.

You can also use ReadPlease to read emails or website content while you relax with your morning coffee.

A bonus for me is that my young children love it. They can type in words or sentences and have it spoken back to them very slowly or very fast. Also, if they type in a random string of letters, the voices come out with some weird sounds which the kids think are hilarious.

The standard version of the software is free, but you can also purchase a "plus" version.

Read more information and download the program.

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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 quite a few new examples of the MSN Contact List Virus Hoax.

Another popular topic was the Glade Fire Hazard email that I've discussed above.

I've also received several queries about the following email, which appears to be a phisher scam:

Thank you for your order. The payment has been sent successfully Your order would be shipped during next two days by USPS Red mail.

Your credit card is billed for J117.99 by "Goretex Liquor Store". To track your order delivery use this link:

I'm currently doing some research about this scam email.

One email hoax that never seems to stop circulating is the UPS Uniforms Hoax. Every week, I receive a number of examples and enquires relating to this hoax.

The article about the Camel Spiders Hoax is still one of the most popular pages on the Hoax-Slayer site.

Thank you very much for the examples you have submitted.

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