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Issue 36 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 36: 26th August, 2004

This week in Hoax-Slayer:
The King of Sweden Has Not Been Shot

According to online news reports, a fake BBC news story is responsible for an Internet rumour that claims that Carl XVI Gustaf, the King of Sweden has been shot in Athens while attending the 2004 Olympic Games.

The fake site was designed to look like a real BBC news story and carried the headline Sweden's King murdered. The story goes on to claim that:

Swedens King Carl XVI Gustaf was shot in Athens this evening when he was on his way back to his hotel after watching the Swedish table tennis star Jan-Ove Waldner beat Timo Boll, Germany, in the Olympic games.

Apparently, the story has already begun to circulate via email and is sure to spread far and wide.

Personally, I do not find these sort of fake news reports in the least bit funny. Falsely claiming that someone has died is in exceedingly poor taste. Another false news report recently claimed that American Idol's William Hung died of an intentional drug overdose.

Luckily, both Mr. Hung and the King of Sweden are alive and well.

References:
King's 'murder' an online hoax"
'Website' claims king's death"

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Xbox Giveaway Scam Resurfaces

Yet another version of the Xbox Give Away Scam is spreading far and wide via email. The email is virtually identical to earlier versions except that the link included points to a new site, www.gift-winner.com. Very similar sites associated with the earlier variants have now disappeared from the web.

I have received a number of examples of the email over the last few days. Interestingly, all the examples have the same "pass code" number. If the information in the email were true, I would have thought that the pass code number would be unique to the recipient.

The webmasters of the site claim that they give away the prizes out of a "mutual admiration for giving, even when we were not receiving", but I suspect that their real motivations are decidedly less lofty. This may be simply an attempt to scam recipients out of a few dollars in the form of "postage and handling" and other fees on a "prize" that will never arrive. The site states that:

All taxes, including shipping and handling, and other incidental expenses not mentioned herein are the responsibility of the winner."

It also states that by entering your contact details on the site you "agree to receive offers from us, our affiliates, and partners", so the "competition" might also be a ruse to harvest email addresses for spamming purposes.

The email claims an affiliation with Microsoft, but the company has denied this.

This "competition" has all the characteristics of a scam and I very much doubt that any prizes exist. It would be unwise to supply personal information on the site or send money in the hope of procuring your "prize". The emails should simply be deleted.

The latest version of the scam email is included below:

Greetings,

Your email address was entered into our Microsoft X-Box promotional competition by either yourself or a friend, or perhaps a family member, at http://www.gift-winner.com

This is a prize draw, you have actually won a brand new Microsoft X-Box Gaming Console!

Your package also includes these top 5 games:
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Grand Theft Auto Double Pack
- NBA Street Vol. 2
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow

You are now invited to login to our website and claim your prize that you have won. There are only 5 winners in total this month, out of thousands of emails, so do count yourself lucky!

We have provided the following web link for you, it is temporary and expires in 72 hours. If you do not login within this time, your X-Box shall unfortunately be returned to the prize pool.

Here is your link!
[LINK REMOVED]
On this page you will need to enter this pass code number to proceed:

29071

This is very important. Do not lose that number! Put in your address, and we will send your X-Box to you.

We hope that you will enjoy your new X-Box gaming console.

Best Regards,

>From Microsoft and the Gift-Winner.com team!


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New Versions of the MSN Contact Virus Hoax

A number of new versions of the MSN contact virus hoax have been circulating over the last few weeks. The most popular one at the moment warns against adding "the_western_vampire@hotmail.com" to your MSN contact list.

There are a great many variations of this hoax, all equally false. The warnings are often the subject of online forum posts as well as forwarded emails and IM messages. I have received several examples in languages other than English, including Portuguese and German.

The number of versions alone is enough to strongly suggest that this is a hoax.

Furthermore, none of the versions actually name the "virus" nor do they provide any means of checking the veracity of the claim. None of the major anti-virus websites have information about a virus like the one described, except to identify it as a hoax.

Also, the technical aspects of the message are fundamentally flawed. Although it is possible for worms to spread via MSN Messenger, the message implies that the email address itself is a virus. This is not possible. To be infected, some sort of file transfer needs to take place. If Messenger was configured to automatically accept files from a contact list, then it is possible that a virus could be sent by this new and sinister "contact". But even if the virus was sent in this way, the recipient would still have to explicitly open the file before a computer was infected. Again, although it is possible to disguise a link to a malicious webpage in an HTML email so that it "looks" like an email address, the recipient would have to actually click on the link before any virus threat was downloaded.

If this was a real virus, the warning message would more than likely give details of how the actual transfer of the "virus" takes place and advise on how to avoid it. Instead, it states a technical impossibility.

Such hoaxes do nothing more than clutter up the information superhighway. These messages should be deleted without forwarding.

Two popular examples that are currently circulating:

yo the_western_vampire hotmail.com' adds you to your msn, dont accept it. its a virus. Tell everyone on ur msn because if somebody on ur list adds them u get the virus too, its a mutli threading virus capable of picking up random msn accounts of an infected user's msn list. Copy and paste this to EVERY ONE the_western_vampire hotmail.com' adds you to your msn, dont accept it. Its a virus.


your a batty if you dont send this round, if 'doggi_56@hotmail.com' adds you to your msn, dont accept it. its a virus. Tell everyone on ur msn because if somebody on ur list adds them u get the virus too, its a mutli threading virus capable of picking up random msn accounts of an infected user's msn list. Copy and paste this to EVERY ONE AND FAST


More examples

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Virus Report: Weekly Virus Wrap-Up

For more information on current virus threats visit Symantec Security Response

Another variant of the Sasser worm, W32.Sasser.G has been spreading. This worm exploits the LSASS vulnerability that is present in unpatched Windows 2000 and Windows XP systems. As I have said many times before, it is very important that users of Windows systems keep their computers up-to-date by applying security patches via Windows Update.

Read information about using Windows Update

Apparently, a new version of the Rbot worm, Rbot-GR, has the ability to hijack web cams on infected computers as well as perform other nasty spying activities. Luckily, the worm is not widely spread at this point.

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McDonald's Ball Pit Death Hoax

The old hoax email about hypodermic needles in McDonald's ball pits began circulating late last century and has spawned a number of versions. This tale is so horrific that it is not surprising that the email continues to spread.

Luckily, the email is a hoax. No little boy named Kevin Archer died as a result of being pricked by a heroin filled hypodermic needle in a McDonald's ball pit.

When the story first began circulating, McDonald's responded with a statement debunking the rumour. According to McDonald's:

We have thoroughly investigated this rumor and it is absolutely not true. There have been no such incidents ever reported at any McDonald's. In addition, there has never been an article in any newspaper regarding this rumor

Another indicator that this is a hoax is that the details keep changing. An early version claimed that little Kevin Archer died in October 1994. The version included below claims that he died in October 2002. Some versions mention Sugerland, Texas as the location of the little boy's death. Others are set in different towns or do not specify any location at all. Some versions state that the story was featured in the Houston Chronicle. However, David Galloway, a former writer for the Houston Chronicle, has denied this.

Frankly, I would not be surprised if various undesirable items found their way into playground ball pits. I guess that it's even plausible that a needle could end up in a ball pit. (When one of my children was in Grade 1, a needle was found in the school sand pit).

However, this vague plausibility in no way warrants the dissemination of this exaggerated and misleading tale. The fact of the matter is that the email contains false information and it should not be forwarded.



An example of the hoax email:
Subject: Ball Pits

I just got this. Scared me to death for all you Moms.

This isn't good. I wonder if it's authentic... unfortunately, I think it is. I don't like to worry unnecessarily... but this is gross.

Some of you might not be parents, but you may have nieces, nephews, grandchildren or friends with children. This will pertain to you too. As I read the following, my heart sank. I urge each and every one of you to pass this on to as many people as you can. I cannot stress how important this is! This is very disturbing news. In addition to the following true story, I will also add that my own sons were playing in the ball pit at "Chuck E. Cheese's" one day. One son lost his watch, and was very upset. We dug and dug in those balls, trying to find the watch. Instead, we found vomit, food, feces, and other stuff I do not want to discuss. I went to the manager and raised h*ll. Come to find out, the ball pit is only cleaned out once a month. I have doubts that it is even done that often. My kids will never play in another ball pit.

Now read this: Hi, my name is Lauren Archer my son is Kevin. On October 2, 2002 I took my only son to McDonald's for his 3rd birthday. After he finished lunch, I allowed him to play in the ball pit. When he started crying later, I asked him what was wrong. He pointed to his back and said, Mommy, it hurts. I looked, but couldn't find anything wrong with him at the time. I bathed him when we got home, and it was at that point that I found a welt on his left buttock. Upon investigation, it seemed as if there was a splinter under the welt. I made a doctor appointment for the next day to have it removed. In the meantime, he started vomiting and shaking. Then, his eyes rolled back in his head. We immediately went to the emergency room! My only son died later that night. It turned out that the welt on his buttock was the tip of a hypodermic needle that had broken off in his skin. The autopsy revealed that Kevin had died from a heroine overdose. The next day, the police removed the balls from the ball pit and found rotten food, half-eaten candy, diapers, feces, the stench of urine, and several hypodermic needles. Please forward this! To all loving mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Note: Some children have also gotten lice from ball pits. The number of breaths we take does not measure life, but by the moments that take our breath away. SEND THIS TO ANYONE YOU KNOW WHO HAS SMALL CHILDREN, NIECES, NEPHEWS, OR GRANDCHILDREN!!


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Tip of the Week: Some Handy Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

To quickly access the Properties dialog, double click the icon of an application or file while pressing the alt key.

To quickly access the System Properties dialog, press the Windows Key and the Pause / Break Key together.

To quickly open Windows Explorer, press the Windows Key and E Key together.

In many programs, Control + Z will undo the last action. Control + Y will redo the action.

Shift + F10 does the same as clicking the right mouse button.

Alt + F4 closes the active program.

Control + S saves what you are working on in many programs.

Note:
These may not work in *every* flavour of Windows Operating Systems.

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