Issue 41 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter
Issue 41: 14th October, 2004
This week in Hoax-Slayer:
HIV Infected Blood in the Ketchup Hoax
Like many other hoax messages, this email forward warns of a sickening and unusual danger lurking among the commonplace items and places of our daily lives. In this case, the supposed danger is HIV infected blood mixed with ketchup in a fast food outlet.
As is often the case with such bogus warnings, the details in the email are extremely vague. The alleged perpetrator is identified only as "a man", and the type and location of the fast food outlet is omitted completely. The message does not indicate if the person has actually been apprehended or is still apt to be lurking around the condiments in your local burger joint, with deadly blood specimens at the ready. Thus, there is no way of verifying the information contained in the email, which, I dare say, was how the creator of the hoax intended it.
There does not appear to be any mention of such a case in the mainstream media. If it were true, such a story would be eminently newsworthy. It is highly unlikely that such a juicy little tale would be left to spread via email alone if there were any truth in it whatsoever. Legitimate news outlets would have been quick to cover the story. By asking recipients to send the message to "as many people as possible" the email implies that adding HIV infected blood to ketchup dispensers might be a frequent occurrence. If this were really the case, health authority containment strategies would almost certainly have been implemented to protect consumers and, again, the case would have attracted extensive publicity.
It also should be noted that the chances of a person contacting HIV by ingesting infected blood mixed with ketchup are extremely remote. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
, "Scientists and medical authorities agree that HIV does not survive well outside the body, making the possibility of environmental transmission remote." The article explains that the virus cannot reproduce outside a living host except under laboratory conditions. Thus, even if infected blood was added to ketchup, the virus would not survive for long, nor would it reproduce itself.
This hoax is by no means the first to claim that innocent victims are at risk of being infected by HIV via the malicious placement of infected material. The long-lived, and widespread, HIV needle hoax
falsely warns that HIV infected needles are being deliberately left on theatre seats, petrol (gas) pump handles and phone-booth coin returns.
Like other hoaxes, such as the roach eggs hoax
, this infected blood in the ketchup hoax relies for effect on the revulsion factor. The thought of consuming HIV infected human blood would be enough to put even the most ardent fast food lover off his or her burger and fries. So perhaps this ridiculous piece of email nonsense has just a smidgin of value. Perhaps, after receiving this email, some will forgo their usual deep-fried artery-clogger and opt for a garden salad instead. Mind you, do you really know what's in that salad dressing?(grin)
An example of the hoax email:
SEND THIS TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. PEOPLE ARE SICK.
Discuss This Story
This is something you may want to take note of: ONLY USE KETCHUP FROM THE
PACKET IN FAST FOOD OUTLETS!!
A man was caught placing blood in the ketchup dispenser at a fast food
outlet (to remain unnamed) within the last month. It is believed that he is
So be sure to let your friends/family know...only use items that come in a
Mortgage Spam on the Rise
One of the most common types of unsolicited email hitting inboxes
at the moment is that promoting mortgage services. Many of the
emails imply that the recipient has already been approved for a
loan by making a vague statement such as "we are accepting your
mortgage application". These emails are basically just poorly
implemented tricks to get recipients to click on the link
provided and fill out a form. Gullible recipients may believe
that they are actually being offered a loan.
A lot of the sites seem to only last a few days before they are
taken down. A great deal of personal information has to be
entered into the form. This information could then be used for
nefarious purposes such as highly targeted spamming via email,
surface mail and telemarketing. The information could also be
sold to other spammers. If enough information is provided,
scammers might even be able to steal the person's identity.
The spam linked "mortgage application" sites I've examined look
very suspect to me. Often they consist of just one page
no information about the company offering the service and no
contact options other than the form provided. Often,the form is
not secure, which is a good indication that the site is not
legitimate. No credible company would expect potential clients
to submit information via an unsecured form. A Washington Post
reports that the US based Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) took legal action against one online entity,
30 Minute Mortgage Inc, "that had advertised 3.95
percent, 30-year mortgages, hoping to obtain sensitive
information, including Social Security numbers, from consumers
Some of the companies advertised in mortgage spam might actually
be providing some
form of mortgage related services rather than
just trying to harvest personal information. Often these
companies offer pay-per-lead affiliate programs. That is,
people can sign up as affiliates and every time somebody
clicks their special link and fills in a form, they receive
a commission. This sort of affiliate program can be a
perfectly legitimate means of doing business so long as it
does not involve spamming or other under-hand tactics.
Legitimate companies that offer pay-per-lead affiliate
programs will not tolerate spamming and affiliates who do
so will have their contracts terminated. In fact, some
quite legitimate mortgage companies such as LendingTree.com
offer affiliate programs, but they have strict anti-spam
policies outlined in their affiliate operating agreements.
My personal policy is to never
deal with spammers, regardless
of how attractive their offer may seem. If they are unscrupulous
enough to send unsolicited email, or allow their affiliates to
send unsolicited email, then they have immediately proven
themselves to be untrustworthy and they will never
Subject: Re: Submission
Discuss This Story
Important Information: (Application Confirmation)
We are glad to inform you that we recieved your application
request on Thursday, however, before we can pre-approve you at
one low fixed rate. We need for you to take a moment to
confirm/update any information as needed. Once reviewing your
application the process will not take any longer than 24 hours,
you will be contacted shortly with up to four lenders offers.
Secure Application [LINK REMOVED]
You are recieving this because you or someone sent a request. If
you feel you recieved this based on an error or did not request
we sincerely apoligze for any inconvenience this may of caused
MSN Shutdown Hoax
Another apparently unfounded rumour that targets MSN is currently
circulating. The email claims that MSN "will shut down at 12:00
tonight" and will remain shutdown for a "week or so". The message
doesn't specify a date, which means that the deliberately vague
timeframe of "tonight" will still appear valid to the unwary
regardless of what date they actually receive it. In fact, this
hoax will probably mutate and keep on making the rounds for
months to come.
There is nothing on the MSN home page about any scheduled shutdown.
In the highly unlikely event that MSN was
actually going to shut
down for a week, I'm sure that they would let their clients know
about it via their home page or other means. Furthermore, any
notification sent by MSN about the shutdown would certainly be a
lot more formal and informative then the silly message quoted
This hoax is similar to the long running Hotmail Account Hoax
which claims that the recipient's Hotmail account will be
shutdown if the message is not forwarded. Like the Hotmail hoax,
this one should be deleted rather than forwarded.
we are very sorry for the problems that MSN are having but they
will be fixed. MSN will shut down at 12:00 tonight for a week or
so until we can figure out what has been going on. please send
this once again to at least 25 people it doesn't matter if they
are the same people just do it so that we will not shut your
account down thank you
Discuss This Story
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
A new worm known as W32.Funner
is spreading via the Microsoft
Windows Messenger application. The worm modifies the hosts file
by adding a number of entries that point to external IP addresses.
is a worm that spreads using Microsoft Outlook,
peer-to-peer file sharing networks and mIRC. Infected emails will
have one of the following subject lines:
Important legal notice!
Please help us to save the right of freedom of expression!
Please help us be free! We need the basic right of expression
is a worm that collects email addresses from the
infected computer and uses it own SMTP engine to spread. The
"From" field of the infected email will be spoofed. The subject
line of the infected email will be one of the following.
Re: User ID Update
Fwd: Your Funds are Eligible for Withdrawal
find a solution with this customer
Re: Help Desk Registration
when should i call you?
RE: Re: A question
Knowledge Base Article
Returned mail: see transcript for details
[Fwd: Broken link]
troubles are back again
Need help pls
You have recieved an eCard!
What is this ????
Message recieved, please confirm
My funny stories
RE: quote request
Discuss Virus and Security Issues
Lottery Scams Continue
Every week I receive dozens of lottery scam emails, either as
submitted examples or directly from the scammers. I also receive
many enquiries from people who have already lost money to lottery
scams or are concerned because they have submitted information
to the scammers.
Basically, these scams work like this:
You receive an unsolicited email, letter or fax, which states that
you have won a major prize in an international lottery. Supposedly,
your email address was collected online and attached to a random
number that was subsequently entered in a draw for the lottery.
In order to claim your prize, you are instructed to contact the
official "agent" in charge of your case. You are also advised to
keep the win confidential for "security reasons". This part of
the scam is basically a random phishing expedition. If you respond
in any way to the email, the scammers will send further messages
or even contact you by phone in an attempt to draw you deeper into
You may be asked to provide banking details, ostensibly to
facilitate the transfer of your winnings. Sooner or later, the
scammers will request some sort of advance fee supposedly to cover
administration, legal or delivery costs. This request for money
is the main purpose of the scam. At its core, this scam is just a
reworking of the Nigerian loan fraud
, in which scammers also
eventually ask for upfront fees to facilitate the "deal". Like
Nigerian scams, victims who do actually pay the requested fees
will probably find that they receive continuing payment demands
to cover "unexpected expenses". The requests for money will go
on until the victim realizes what is happening or has no further
money to send.
The details of the lottery scams vary regularly with regard to the
name of the lottery itself, the country of origin, the sponsoring
organization, the amount of the "prize" and other particulars.
The scammers try to add a patina of legitimacy to their claims by
mentioning real financial institutions, government departments or
well-known companies. They may also provide links to slick looking,
but fraudulent websites that are designed to back up information
included in the scam emails. If the scammers are successful in
establishing a dialogue with a potential victim, they may provide
"proof" such as a scanned image of a supposed government official's
ID and even photographs of the "winnings" in cash.
If you receive one of these scam emails, it is important that you
do not respond to it in any way. The scammers are likely to act
upon any response from those they see as potential victims.
Sometimes, recipients submit a great deal of personal information
before realizing that they are being conned. Even if they stop
responding and have not sent any money, the scammers may have
already gained enough personal information to commit identity
Read more information about Lottery Scams
A current example of a lottery scam email is included below:
LEEK ROAD, STOKE ON TRENT
ENGLAND ST1 3NR.
FROM:THE DESK OF THE PROMOTION MANAGER,
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS/PRIZE AWARD DEPARTMENT,
Ref. Number: 132/756/4509
Batch Number: 538901527-Bc68
Ticket Number: 27522465896-6453
Discuss This Story
We are pleased to inform you of the result of the winners in our
International Lottery Program held on the 30th of Aug, 2004. Your
e-mail address attached to ticket number 27522465896-6453 with
serial number 3772-554 drew lucky numbers 7-14-18-31-45 which
consequently won in the 2ND category, you have therefore been
approved for a lump sum pay out of 750,000 EUROS (seven hundred
and fifty thousand Euros) CONGRATULATIONS! Due to mix up of some
numbers and names, we ask that you keep your winning information
confidential until your claims have been fully processed and your
money Remitted to you. This is part of our security protocol to
avoid multiple claims and unwarranted abuse of this program by
some participants. All participants were selected through a
computer ballot system drawn from over 20,000 company and
30,000,000 individual email addresses and names from all over the
world. This promotional program takes place every five years.
This lottery was promoted and sponsored by a conglome rate of
some multinational companies in europe as part of their social
responsibility to the citizens in the communities where they have
operational base. We hope with part of your winnings you will
take part in our next year Ten million Euros international
lottery. To file for your claim, please contact our fiducial
agent: Godson Cook Reply Email :email@example.com Remember
all winning must be claimed not later than 25th of oct 2004.
After this date all unclaimed funds will be included in the next
stake. Please note in order to avoid unnecessary delays and
complications, remember to quote your reference number and batch
numbers in all correspondence. Furthermore should there be any
change of address do inform our agent as soon as possible.
Congratulations once more from our members of staff and thank you
for being part of our promotional program. Note: Anybody under
the age of 18 is automatically disqualified. Yours Sincerely,
Daniel Brickfield International Lottery (co-ordinator) N.B: Any
breach of confidentiality on the part of the winners will result
to disqualification. Please do not reply to this mail. Contact
your claims agent
Clever and Interesting Webpage
I have recently exchanged links with a site that I feel is
exceptionally clever and unusual so I thought I would mention it
here. It is very amusing and well worth a visit.
What will shopping be like in the fourth
millennium? What will be available for the well appointed
home? Aurelio O'Brien uses his skills as an animator to help
us imagine just such a future with this amusing spoof of
You can access the site via the link below:
Discuss This Story
Hosting Problems now Resolved
Over the last two weeks I have experienced significant technical
problems with my hosting account. The problems mean that email
sent to my Hoax-Slayer accounts may have been lost, and site
visitors may have encountered a number of "Page not found"
These problems were beyond my control, as they had to be dealt
with by the hosting company. The problems have now been
resolved, at least in the short term.
If you have sent email to me within the last two weeks, please
note that I may not have received it, so you might like to
repost your message. I regret any inconvenience these problems
may have caused you.
Also, just a reminder that the Hoax-Slayer Forums
are the best place to ask scam and hoax related questions.
Discuss This Story
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©Brett M. Christensen, 2008
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