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Issue 47 - Hoax-Slayer Newsletter

Issue 47: January, 2005

This month in Hoax-Slayer:
Red Cross Tsunami Scam Email

The rather crude scam email below pretends to be from the International Red Cross and asks for donations to assist victims of Asia's devastating tsunami. The Red Cross does not send unsolicited requests for donations via email. Furthermore, the Red Cross does not collect donations in the manner described in the message. Official Red Cross websites do allow visitors to donate money via secure online forms. However, the organization does not expect the contributor to arrange the transaction via email and then wire the money via a transfer service. Any "donations" sent as a response to the email above would go directly to the scammers perpetrating this unforgivable fraud.

Unfortunately, the tsunami disaster has provided a perfect background for the unscrupulous to launch a variety of Internet and email based scams. The example above is only one of many tsunami related scam emails. Some are classic Nigerian scams modified to use the Tsunami as a cover story. Others ask for donations and point recipients to fake websites designed to resemble the websites of real charitable organizations. Still others may contain viruses or other malicious content.

Be very wary of any unsolicited emails that ask for donations for Tsunami victims. Do not click on donation links provided in these emails as they may lead to fake websites. Do not open attachments that arrive with these emails, as they may contain viruses. If you wish to donate money online, go directly to the charity's official website.

For more information see the FBI's TSUNAMI DISASTER RELIEF FRAUD ALERT and the American Red Cross National Headquarters Statement on Internet Fraud.

Subject: PLEASE HELP TSUNAMI VICTIMS, HELP TSUNAMI VICTIMS

HELP TSUNAMI VICTIMS, HELP TSUNAMI VICTIMS.

THE RED CROSS INTERNATIONAL AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS ZONE (B) HEREBY APPEALLING TO YOU FRIENDS,PUBLIC,FAMILIES AND COMPANIES, TO HELP US WITH ONLINE FUND RAISING TO ENABLE US TREAT OVER 1.5 MILLION CHILDREN AFFECTED WITH QUAKE/TSUNAMI DESASTER ACROSS ASIA.VISIT WWW.CNN.COM/TSUNAMI TO SEE WHY YOUR HELP/MONEY IS HIGHLY NEEDED.

HELP THE NEEDY,POOR AND SICK,NO AMOUNT IS SMALL FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFULL GIVER. IN ORDER TO EXPEDITE THE SENDING OF THE RELIEF FUNDS TO THE NEEDY URGENTLY, YOU ARE ADVISED TO SEND US YOUR DONATION/CONTRIBUTION IN HOLLAND BY EXPRESS MONEYGRAM TRANSFER SERVICES ( www.moneygram.com ) OR WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER ( www.westernunion.com ) THROUGH THE NAME OF OUR FINANCIAL OFFICERS MRS ( LILIAN DAVID ) AND MR ( ROBERT JOHN ) RESPECTIVELY.

YOU ARE ADVISED TO RESPOND BACK TO US THROUGH THIS EMAIL ADDRESS AND PROVIDE US WITH THE TRANSFER DETAILS INCLUDING YOUR CONTACT ADDRESS ON OUR OFFICIAL E-MAIL ADDRESS: [REMOVED]

N.B,DONATORS FROM 100 TO 4500 EUROS WILL ONLY HAVE THEIR NAMES APPEARED IN OUR RELIEF MAGAZINES AND WEBSITES WHILE THOSE DONATIONS ABOVE ( 5000 EUROS) TO ANY AMOUNT WILL HAVE A SPACE FOR THEIR FOTOS,NAMES AND BUSINESS ADVERTS IN OUR MAGAZINES AND WEBSITES AS DOES IN THE PAST YEARS.FOR THE LATER (VIP)S PLEASE SEND US YOUR FOTOS AND BUSINESS DETAILS.

WE AWAITS YOUR URGENT RESPONSE AND THANKS FOR YOUR CO-OPERATIONS AND GENEROSITY TO MANKIND.

YOURS SINCERELY,

JANZEN HALL

RELIEF COORDINATOR.


[TOP]



Help Identify Two Year Old Tsunami Victim Email

The email and photograph included below are spreading rapidly around the world. Although the message may seem like a hoax at first glance, it does indeed contain factual information. However, there is no longer any need to forward the message on. I am very pleased to report that the little boy in the photograph has now been found by his family.

According to a USA Today article, the boy, Hannes Bergstroem , was reunited with his father after his uncle saw a photograph of him on the Internet.

"His uncle, who spotted the photo, claimed the boy Tuesday and set up the reunion with the father, Marko Karkkainen, at a hospital on the southern Thai island of Phuket where both father and son were receiving treatment."

It is wonderful that email and the Internet have helped to bring this little boy back to his family. However, emails such as this one often continue to circulate long after there is any valid reason for them to do so. This can clutter inboxes with needless information and weaken the power of future Internet based missing person campaigns.

Thus, if you receive this email, please do not forward it to others and let the sender know that the child's family has now been found.

Reference:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2004-12-29-swedish-boy_x.htm

Dear Friends,

Please take a look at the attached picture of this victim (a 2 years old boy) from Tsunami. If you do not know him, please forward his pictures to your friends or organization in your country for further publication.

This boy is about 2 years old. Found and taken from Khao Lak Resort Area,the southern part of Thailand. His parents are missing. His nationality cannot be identified.

Please contact [CONTACT DETAILS REMOVED]
I thank you all for extending kindness to this boy.

With kind regards,

[NAME REMOVED] Thai Airways International PCL"

Hannes Bergstroem
[Click image for full size view]


Another example (Some arrive without the photograph):
Please send this to all - we mean all! - the people in your entire network. Looking for his family.

The boy about 2 years, from Khoa Lak is missing his parents. Nobody knows what country he comes from. If anyboy known him please contact us [CONTACT DETAILS REMOVED]


[TOP]



Email Forward: Help Identify Young Girl Caught in Tsunami

Like the email discussed above, this is not a hoax. The young girl pictured is indeed a victim of the Asian Tsunami. However, I am please to report that the child has now been identified. According to a page on the Phuket International Hospital website, she is 10 year-old Sophia Michl from Germany.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Sophia's parents, Mr. Norbert and Mrs. Edeltraud Michl, are still missing.

Now that young Sophia has been identified, it would be counter productive to continue forwarding the email.

References:
Where Are Her Parents?
Aiutate questa bimba! Please help this child!

Subject: Do you know this girl???

I do not normally forward emails on however I think this is an exception. Please forward it onto as many people as you have in your address book.

IMPORTANT!
SHE IS AT THE PHUKET HOSPITAL. SHE DOES NOT REMEMBER ANYTHING. SHE LOST HER PARENTS. PLEASE FORWARD THIS E-MAIL, SOMEONE MIGHT REALIZE WHO SHE IS. THANK YOU.

Lost Tsunami Girl


[TOP]



Rat Served in Asian Restaurant Hoax

The email forward included below claims that a popular restaurant in Atlanta has been shut down by health authorities. Supposedly, shipments of rats, mice, kittens and puppies were discovered in the restaurant's kitchen ready to be served as Asian dishes to the establishment's high profile guests. The email includes photographs featuring trays of rodents supposedly ready for use in the eatery's kitchen.

However, it is not difficult to identify the email as a hoax:

In fact, this hoax is just another manifestation of a long-standing urban legend that unfairly maligns Asian restaurants. Here in Australia, vague stories about cats or rats being used as a secret substitute for chicken at Chinese eateries have circulated for many years. There is the yarn about the town where a lot of pet cats have gone missing until the mystery is solved when sanitation workers find cat skeletons in the local Chinese restaurant garbage bins. Another tells of the suspicious Asian restaurant patron who takes a sample of his "chicken" to be analysed only to discover that he or she has been eating cat or rat or another animal that Westerners would not normally consider eating. These stories are almost always passed around orally and are never substantiated.



An example of the hoax message:
Subject: FW: [Psp] POPULAR RESTAURANT SHUT DOWN ! ! ! ! !

This is for you chinese food eaters
THIS IS NOT CHICKEN.. LOOK HARDER...

A popular Asian/Chinese restaurant bistro here in Atlanta was closed down this morning after authorities received a tip that the owner was accepting shipments of rats and mice from a vendor to prepare in his dishes. The owner and his wife were arrested early this morning and charges are not known at this time. After a full search of the kitchen, authorities found, packaged rats, mice, kittens, puppies and a large frozen hawk.

The restaurant is a popular gathering spot for local celebrities such as Whitney Houston andhusband Bobby Brown, Jermaine Dupree, Janet Jackson, Usher, Monica, Puffy, TI, Ludacris, Lil Jon, Toni Braxton, TLC and others. The restaurant has locations off Peachtree Road and Alpharetta near North Pointe Mall.

Rat 1

Rat 2

Rat 3

Rat 4


[TOP]



Tsunami Deep Sea Creatures Email

The email below claims that the strange deep sea creatures featured in the accompanying photographs were brought to the surface as a result of Southeast Asia's devastating tsunami of December 2004. However, a short amount of time spent searching the Internet reveals that the pictures were circulating online long before the tsunami struck. Among others, the ConceptArt Forums hosted a thread featuring the very same pictures back in March, 2004.

The creatures depicted in the photographs are real. The pictures were taken during the NORFANZ scientific research voyage undertaken during May and June, 2003. NORFANZ was a "joint Australian- New Zealand research voyage carrying leading Australian, New Zealand and other international scientists to explore deep sea habitats and biodiversity in the Tasman Sea"

The photographs can be viewed in their original context by visiting the NORFANZ Creature Feature pages.

SUBJECT: Phuket Deep Sea Creatures - Found At Seaside After TSUNAMI

As everyone knows, the tsunami in Southeast Asia was devastating both in the loss of life and economically to the region. However now that the clean up is underway in the region, deep sea creatures that live too deep to be studied are being found scattered throughout the wreckage. These creatures were washed up on shore when the waves hit.

Amazing what lives so far below the surface isn't it? It is ironic how terrible human tragedy and natural disaster can lead to unprecedented expansion of scientific knowledge.

The theory is the tsunami created enough vertical currents to sweep these deep living creatures to the surface quickly. The gases in their blood expanded rapidly causing death (like divers ascending too quickly).

Lizard Fish

Prickly Shark

Chimaera Pup

Blop Fish

umbrella_mouth_gulper_eel

aphyonus

basketwork_eel

chimaera_fish

coffinfish

crab

fangtooth

hatchetfish

shovel_nosed_lobster

stargazer

stone_crab

tongue_sole

viperfish

black_dragonfish

swimmer_crab

sea_spider

oreo_dory

firefly_squid

gunard

carrier_shell

blind_lobster


Another abridged example that carried the same pictures:
Hey Guys,

The sea has so much to explore and this time the tsunami came forth to reveal its wealth and its destruction...

I guess all of us never have seen 80% of the fish in the ocean


[TOP]



Tsunami Donations Nigerian Scam

Scammers are using the immense tragedy of the Asian tsunami to pray on the good nature of potential donators. The Nigerian scam email included above asks recipients to help distribute the wealth of a dying merchant to tsunami victims.

A cover story of a dying merchant requesting help to give his or her money to charity is a common Nigerian scam tactic. In fact, the version below is virtually identical to many others I have received except that it attempts to capitalize on the tsunami and uses a different name, supposed country of origin and contact details. For example, I received this version in July, 2004.

Nigerian, or "419", scams are one of the most common types of Internet fraud. The messages generally claim that your help is needed to access a large sum of money. In fact, this money does not exist. The messages are an opening gambit designed to draw potential victims deeper into the scam. Those who begin to correspond with the scammers by replying to the scam messages will eventually be asked for fees or charges supposedly required to allow the deal to proceed.

It should be noted that, in spite of the name, not all “Nigerian” scams originate out of Nigeria. The scammers operate out of many different nations around the world.

For more information about Nigerian scams, see:
Nigerian Loan Scams - 419 Scam Information

SUBJECT: TSUNAMI DONATIONS

Dear Friend

As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday.

My name is Andrew Adams a merchant in PHILIPPINES, I have been diagnosed with Esophageal cancer .It has defiled all forms of medical treatment, and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts. I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I never really cared for anyone (not even myself) but my business. Though I am very rich, I was never generous, I was always hostile to people and only focused on my business as that was the only thing I cared for. But now i regret all this as I now know that there is more to life than just wanting to have or make all the money in the world. I believe when God gives me a second chance to come to this world I would live my life a different way from how I have lived it. Now that God has called me, I have willed and given most of my property and assets to my immediate and extended familymembers as well as a few close friends. I want God to be merciful to me and accept my soul so, I have decided to give alms to charity organizations, as I want this to be one of the last good deeds I do on earth. So far, I have distributed money to some charity organizations in the U.A.E, Algeria and Malaysia, Indian and Pakistan. Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this myself anymore.

I once asked members of my family to close one of my accounts in Switzerland and distribute the money which I have there to charity organization in Bulgaria and Pakistan, they refused and kept the money to themselves. Hence, I do not trust them anymore, as they seem not to be contended with what I have left for them. Now I want you to assist me in getting some cash deposit claim and distribute to charity and people of the tsunami disaster.

The last of my money which no one knows of is the huge Cash deposit of $36,000.000.00 million united states dollars that I have with a finance/Security Company abroad. I will want you to help me collect this deposit and dispatched it to charity organizations. I have set aside twenty percent for you and for your time. My email address is: [removed]

regards,
Andrew Adam

[TOP]

Testing your Email Security

In another article I wrote about ways to test your online security.

It's also a good idea to test the security of your email client. The GFI Email Security Testing Zone is a place where you can do just that. Enter your email address, and the service will perform a vulnerability check on your email system. A series of emails will be sent to you that are designed to test the security of your system and inform you about any potential problems.

When you enter your email address to perform the tests, you will first receive an email that asks for confirmation. Once you confirm your request, a series of test emails will be sent. Each email will outline the results of the test. Naturally, none of the test emails contain any harmful code or viruses. The emails are designed to fool your security software into detecting a potential threat.

Although the company offering the tests is in the business of selling security software, I believe all the tests are legitimate and above board. When requesting the test, you are given the option of subscribing to the GIF Newsletter, but I have never received unsolicited email from the company.

You can read more about the service and request the tests via the URL below:

GFI Email Security Testing Zone

NOTE:
Be sure to read all pertinent instructions and information on the site before requesting the tests.


[TOP]

Appelbee's Gift Certificate Hoax

An email hoax that promises free gift certificates from Applebee's restaurants has been circulating around the Internet for several years. The message claims that, by sending the email to 9 of your friends, you will receive a confirmation number that allows you to claim a $50 gift certificate. The implication is that the company will be able to ascertain via some kind of email tracking program when you have sent the message to 9 other people.

Like other hoaxes that claim a forwarded email is being tracked in some way, this is pure nonsense. Legitimate organizations do not and would not track particular email forwards across Cyberspace.

If you visit, the Applebee's Website, you will generally receive the following message in a pop-up window:

A fraudulent email chain message promising Applebee's® gift certificates for forwarding the message is currently making its way around the Internet. The message promises a gift certificate and a confirmation number after forwarding the message to a specific number of email addresses. Applebee's® International, Inc. does not sponsor or endorse this activity and is unable to fulfill these requests.

This hoax email should be relegated to the deleted items folder where it belongs.
Applebee's Website

Subject: Applebee's - don't delete
My name is Bill Palmer, founder of Applebee's. In an attempt to get our name out to more people in the rural communities where we are not currently located, we are offering a $50 gift certificate to anyone who forwards this email to 9 of their friends. Just send this email to them and you will receive an email back with a confirmation number to claim your gift certificate.
! !

Sincerely
Bill Palmer
Founder of Applebee's Visit us at: www.applebees.com

Hey guys,
DON'T DELETE THIS EMAIL
It really works, I tried it and got my Gift certificate confirmation number in 3 minutes.


[TOP]

Software Review: The Gimp for Windows

Last month I discussed Tux Paint, an image program for children, so I thought I might follow up with some comments about The Gimp, a fully-fledged, and completely free, image manipulation program for adults.

The Gimp is an awesome piece of software! Although it is free, the Gimp is a serious rival for expensive products such as Adobe Photoshop and PaintShop Pro. It allows the use of layers, which is virtually essential for creating anything more than simple graphics. It also has an extensive range of features that allow you to change the appearance of images and/or create a desired effect. A lot of the program's functionality is accessed via right click context menus. The interface consists of a series of floating windows and is highly configurable. The Gimp puts advanced image manipulation software within reach of end-users who are unable or unwilling to spend large amounts for comparable fee-based applications.

From the Download site:

The Windows version of a popular Linux graphics editor and image manipulation software. It offers a ton of features, including advanced layer support, masks, filters, effects and many other features found in professional graphics programs. Beware however that the interface needs getting used to, it uses multiple component windows, rather than a uniform interface.

Get it here

Or check out The Gimp homepage

Please note:
All software I recommend has been checked for spyware and viruses and has proven to be reasonably stable on my Microsoft Windows based computers. However, it is impossible to guarantee that any software I recommend will work as well for you as it has for me. There are just too many variables to make such a guarantee viable. Therefore, I cannot take any responsibility for problems that you may encounter due to the use of software that I have reviewed.


[TOP]



Hoax-Slayer Humour: Resolutions you can Keep!

Are you sick of making the same resolutions year after year and yet you never keep them? Here are some resolutions that you can actually accomplish! Enjoy! :-)

10. Read less.

9. I want to gain weight. Put on at least 30 pounds.

8. Stop exercising. Waste of time.

7. Watch more TV. I've been missing some good stuff.

6. Procrastinate more.

5. Drink. Drink some more.

4. Start being superstitious.

3. Spend more time at work.

2. Stop bringing lunch from home: I should eat out more.

and last but not least...
1. Take up a new habit: maybe gambling!


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