Issue 38 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter
Issue 38: 16th September, 2004
This week in Hoax-Slayer:
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The Hoax-Slayer Newsletter keeps you informed about the latest email hoaxes and current Internet scams. Hoax-Slayer also features
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Death By Candle Email Warning
Yet another "warning" email is making its way around the Internet.
This one claims that a person named Charlene died of carbon
monoxide poisoning as a result of burning candles in an
air-conditioned room. Like most emails of this nature, it does
not provide any checkable details. At this point, I have not
been able to establish if the unfortunate "Charlene" died in the
manner described or even verify if she is a real person. The
place mentioned in the email, MSMKL, is a college in Kuala
It should be noted that candles do
produce carbon monoxide and
that significant exposure to carbon monoxide can cause serious
illness or death. Any device that burns fuel can produce carbon
monoxide. Indeed, many people die every year as a result of
carbon monoxide poisoning. However, as yet, I have not come
across any reports of people dying from CM poisoning purely
a result of burning candles. Perhaps, if a room was very tightly
sealed then it might be possible for a person to be overcome by
carbon monoxide produced by candles, especially if there were a
number of candles burning together. Certainly, such a room could
be potentially unsafe, not only from the risk of carbon monoxide
poisoning but also from the risk of fire and soot produced by
The underlying message in the email is valid. It is unwise to
use candles or any other device that burns combustible fuel in
a poorly ventilated room. It would be especially foolish to
leave candles burning while you slept.
Having said that, the vagueness of the email makes its value
questionable. A message that increases awareness of the
dangers of carbon monoxide could be worthwhile. However,
exaggerating the danger, and inventing a death to drive home
the point is likely to be counterproductive.
I am still researching this issue. If you have any further
information about the email, or you have received a version
different to the one below, I would appreciate it if you
would let me know about it.
Never light candles in air-cond. room
Discuss This Story
For those who sleep in air-conditioned rooms... A friend of mine
has passed away recently, please read the mail below and be
Heard of a bad news regarding Charlene, who studied in MSMKL with
some of us. She passed away last weekend due to carbon monoxide
poisoning. It happened when she lit an aromatheraputic candle for
the night in a room with air-conditioning on and all windows
closed. Due to lack of oxygen in the room, the burning of the
candle cannot fully oxidize & thus forming dangerous carbon
monoxide. Carbon monoxide will prevent oxygen exchange in the
lungs, resulting the person dozing off to state of unconsciousness
& eventual lay death in less than 1 hour, depending on the room
size. I am sending this e-mail out to all of you so that you will
be aware of such danger when lighting aromatheraputic candles in
any unventilated rooms.
Please forward this email to all your love ones.
Overpayment Cheque Scam Still Netting Victims
Recent news reports indicate that Internet sellers around the
world are still falling victim to overpayement cheque scams to
the tune of thousnds of dollars.
People selling high-ticket items such as cars, motorcycles or
computer gear via the Internet should make themselves aware of
this type of scam.
Typically, an overpayment cheque scam works like this:
- A seller places an Internet advertisement for a car or other
item with a high price tag.
- Later, the seller receives a generous offer for the item,
usually via an email.
- The seller agrees on the price, and, often, also agrees to the
proviso that he or she refuses any other offers for the item.
- The scammers then send a cheque for the item. However, the
cheque is for substantially more than the specified amount.
- The scammers invent some excuse for this overpayment and ask
that the balance be electronically transferred to a specified bank
account. For example, they may claim that the extra funds are to
pay the fees of an agent who is handling the sale or to cover
- The seller dutifully transfers the amount out of his or her own
- Later, the seller finds that his or her bank has dishonoured the
cheque. In some cases, the bank may actually have cleared the
funds, but discovers later that the check is a forgery or was
- Thus the seller has been bilked out of a substantial amount,
with little chance of recovering the money. Furthermore, the
item remains unsold and the seller may have rejected legitimate
offers in the mean time.
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.
Hoax-Slayer FAQ's (Part One)
Every week I receive a great many enquires about scams and
hoaxes. Since many enquiries, and their answers, cover the same
material, I have condensed them into a set of Frequently Asked
Questions. This week I will cover the most common types of scam
Q. I received an email/letter/fax that claims that I've won a
great deal of money in an international lottery even though I
never bought a ticket. Is this for real?
A. No, this is most probably a scam. There is no lottery and no
prize. Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by
replying to the messages will eventually be asked for advanced
fees to cover expenses associated with delivery of the supposed
"winnings". They may also become the victims of identity theft.
DO NOT respond to the message.
Find out more about lottery scams
Q. I received an email from my bank/online service provider/
financial institution that asks me to visit a website and enter
personal information. Is this safe?
A. This is more than likely the type of Internet scam known as
"phishing". A phisher scam is one in which victims are tricked
into providing personal information to what they believe to be
a legitimate company or organization. In order to carry out
this trick, the scammers often create a "look-a-like" website
that is designed to resemble the target company's official
website. Typically, emails are used as "bait" in order to get
the potential victim to visit the bogus website. Be wary of any
email that asks you to provide sensitive personal information
such as banking details. Most legitimate companies would not
request such information from customers via email. If you have
any doubts at all about the veracity of the email, contact
the company directly.
Find out more about phisher scams
Q. I received an email/letter/fax that asks for my help to
access a large sum of money in a foreign bank account. The
message says that I will get a percentage of the funds in
exchange for my help. Is this legitimate?
A. In all probability, the message is an example of the
type of scam known as a Nigerian or "419" scam. The
"large sum of money" does not exist. The messages are an
opening gambit designed to draw potential victims deeper
into the scam. Those who initiate a dialogue with the
scammers by replying to the scam messages will eventually
be asked for advance fees supposedly required to allow the
deal to proceed. They may also become the victims of identity
Find out more about Nigerian scams
Q. I replied to a message and have supplied personal information
as requested. Later I found out that the message was a
lottery/Nigerian scam. What should I do now?
A. First of all, stop all dialogue with the scammers immediately.
It is possible that the scammers have collected enough information
about you to commit identity theft. You can find out more about
identity theft and what to do about it via the link below:
FraudWatch International: ID Theft
I would also strongly advise you to contact your local law
enforcement agency and inform them of your situation.
Q.I was tricked into giving money to lottery/Nigerian scammers.
Please tell me how I can get my money back?
A. Unfortunately, there is probably not much you can do to recover
your money. You should contact your local law enforcement agency
for advice as soon as possible. Discontinue any further dialogue
with the scammers. DO NOT give them any more information about
yourself. It is possible that the scammers have collected enough
information about you to commit identity theft. You can find out
more about identity theft and what to do about it via the link
FraudWatch International: ID Theft
In next week's issue I will include some FAQ about common email
Discuss This Story
Virus Report: Weekly Virus Wrap-Up
Several new variants of the MyDoom worm have been reported.
MyDoom variants use spoofing to disguise the real origin of
infected emails and use their own SMTP engine to spread. For more
information about these MyDoom variants visit the Symantec Security Response
Beware of fake Microsoft Security patches
that arrive by email.
These fake emails usually contain a virus or direct recipients to
download a malicious file from a website. Microsoft does not ever
send security updates via email.
Internet Worm SMTP Engines Explained
Email Worm Spoofing - Spoofing Explained
Discuss This Story
Reusing Plastic Bottles Causes Cancer Hoax
Submissions indicate that the following "warning" continues to
circulate. The information in the email is false. There is no
scientific evidence that reusing plastic bottles can lead to
The PET plastics used in such bottles have been approved by
the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and similar
organizations in other nations. Furthermore, the DEHA chemical
referred to in the email is not classified as a human carcinogen
and is not considered to pose a health risk in any case.
The hoax email originated from a University of Idaho student's
masters thesis. However, although the student's findings were
taken up by the mainstream media, the FDA did not review the
thesis nor was it published in a scientific or technical journal.
Furthermore, the thesis incorrectly identifies DEHA as a
carcinogenic element when this is not the case. According to the
American Plastics Council website
the thesis "did not reflect a level of scientific rigor that would provide accurate
and reliable information".
Reusing plastic bottles can
be a health risk in that improper
cleaning could lead to the ingestion of harmful bacteria. While
the bacterial related health risk of reusing plastic bottles
need to be considered, the information in this hoax email
is pure nonsense and should not be taken seriously.
Many are unaware of poisoning caused by re-using plastic bottles.
Some of you may be in the habit of using and re-using your
disposable mineral water bottles (eg. Evian, Aqua, Ice Mountain,
Vita, etc), keeping them in your car or at work. Not a good idea.
In a nutshell, the plastic (called polyethylene terephthalate or
PET) used in these bottles contains a potentially carcinogenic
element (something called diethylhydroxylamine or DEHA).
Discuss This Story
The bottles are safe for one-time use only; if you must keep them
longer, it should be or no more than a few days, a week max, and
keep them away from heat as well. Repeated washing and rinsing
can cause the plastic to break down and the carcinogens (cancer-
causing chemical agents)can leach into the water that YOU are
drinking. Better to invest in water bottles that are really meant
for multiple uses. This is not something we should be scrimping
on. Those of you with family - please advise them,
especially for their children's sake."
Freeware Review: WordWeb
WordWeb is a freeware application that functions as a stand-alone
dictionary and thesaurus. The program sits in the System Tray
and can be used from within just about any program you may be
using including your browser.
To check a word, you simply highlight it and click the tray icon
or use a keyboard shortcut. The WordWeb dialog appears and
presents you with a definition of the word as well as a list of
synonyms. If the word is spelled incorrectly, it will present an
alternative where possible as well as a list of like words for you
to choose from. You can substitute the word with one from the list
by using the "replace" button.
You can also enter a word directly into the search field and have
the search function present you with a definition, synonyms,
antonyms and more.
This software is excellent if you are working in text editors,
email clients, html editors or other programs that might not have
access to the powerful grammar and spelling functionality of
software like MS Word. It is also very handy for checking the
meanings of words you may encounter while browsing the Internet.
The program is compatible with Win 95, 98, NT, 2000 and XP.
You can find out more about the program from the following link:
NOTE: This version of the program is freeware and fully
functional. However, there is a Pro version of the software
that offers extra options for a fee.
For more freeware reviews, visit my Freeware Reviews blog
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